Album Review

Zac Brown Band "Uncaged"

Chad W. Lutz
I’m not a fan of country music - well, pop country, I suppose - but there, I’ve said it. Having said that, when I had the opportunity to review Zac Brown Band’s newest release, Uncaged, I was a little apprehensive. Though I love all forms of music and personally own a copy of Shania Twain’s Come On Over (1997), country is probably my least favorite.

But when I got ahold of Uncaged, I found something completely different than what I expected. As I listened to the eleven-track LP, it dawned on me: this is a completely different take on country music. I can’t even remember where I had originally heard about Zac Brown Band – maybe from a friend, or possibly some television or radio commercial – either way, my experience was little. But in true Hendrix fashion, I soon became “experienced.”

The album kicks off with “Jump Right In” (3:02). Aptly named and positively charged, “Jump Right In” does just that, and gives listeners a glimpse of what the rest of the album holds. Bright and bouncy are the bass lines and melodies. The only real hints of country, in its truest sense, are the violin and organ that appear on the track.

As the LP moves toward the middle tracks the pace slows down considerably. The longest song on the album, “Goodbye in her Eyes” (5:24) represents a softer, candid sort of ballad and begins the more traditional country aesthetic. “The Wind” (2:56) continues this trend while highlighting the band’s instrumental prowess.

“Island Song” (3:42) is a Jimmy Buffet-inspired Reggae number laced with hints of Bob Marley, showcasing why more than just the country crowd should give this band a try. Lyrics about drinking and soaking up the sun on warm and sandy beaches provide a stark contrast to other songs which tout lyrics about “chasing sunset highways,” “getting faded at the bar,” and “losing lovers.”

Uncaged ends with a slower, softer feel. The final five songs, ranging from 3:02 to 4:53, move seamlessly and entertain. Although slower in general, the songs captivate. The lone exception is “Day that I Die” (4:53), which features mostly boorish rockabilly melodies and rhythms and predictable call and response vocals. Uncaged ends with the all-too-apropos “Last but Not Least” (3:42).

What impresses me most is that Zac Brown Band isn’t a new kid on the block. Uncaged stands as the Atlanta-based group’s fourth studio album. Their three prior releases include 2008’s The Foundation, which sold roughly 2.6 million copies and snagged the group a Grammy for Best New Artist. Any musician or musical group impresses me with the ability to capture the attention of so many people. Uncaged may not appeal to everyone, but the newest release from Zac Brown Band is, at least, worth a listen.