I am a big fan of Zac Brown Band. I have grown up listening to his music with my family, and I have always believed he is a light in the darkness in terms of contemporary country music. My parents have even been to a few Zac Brown shows. I will always have a soft spot for country music because of talented musicians like Zac Brown. However I was not impressed by his latest album, it actually pained me to dislike this album in the way I did. “Welcome Home” is meant to be an album that goes back to what inspired Zac Brown to originally become a singer/songwriter, however what we ended up with was what sounds like Outtakes from previous Zac Brown albums tinged with elements from Zac Brown’s previous album, the genre bending, “Jekyll + Hyde”.
The first song, “Roots”, begins with this classic country violin intro that sounds like Zac Brown but you also can’t help but feel like you have already heard it before. I can not pinpoint specifically where I have heard this intro at before but I swear I have, it’s unoriginal. “Roots” discusses the origins of Zac Brown Band, and talks about how he and his drummer toured around playing shows in a Dodge Van. This will be a familiar story to people who have listened to a ton of Zac Brown’s music, we hear bits and pieces of this story in older tracks like “I Play The Road” and “Free”. This is a good song, and is one of the better that are on this album, it reminds me of the “Jekyll + Hyde” single “Homegrown”, which at first I also did not enjoy until months of listening to it. If anyone is interested in learning more about Zac Brown’s early days with his van I recommend the Nashville episode of the Dave Grohl “Sonic Highways” series. The next song is “Real Thing” which I will agree, is a catchy song. However, I do not know what Zac Brown is even trying to say with this song, if he is trying to say anything at all. This song makes you think that if “Welcome Home” is a return to Zac’s roots as a musician, then you may as well alter the lyric’s to the 2010 single, “Free”, to “Yeah Yeah You know we are free baby / Yeah Yeah Yeah and ever Free yeah baby!” It just comes off as lazy country pop. The follow up song “Long Haul” is guilty of the same crime here. It starts off on the right track then completely derails in mediocrity whenever you hear the hook “I’m in it for the loooooong haul… Looooooong haul!”. It’s a forgettable song and just because you shout the name of the song in the chorus does not make it a worthy chorus.
“2 Places at 1 Time” is a fantastic song and is closer to the roots of Zac Brown’s music then everything else on this album. This reminds me of a song like “Highway 20 Ride” or “Different Kind of Fine” from Zac’s album, “The Foundation”. I like Zac Brown when he knows what he is singing about and he is confident in his song. This song is also a high point on this album because it knows how to use each band member sparingly, and does not do that annoying thing country artists do where the song’s chorus is just an ear rape explosion of electric guitars and thrashing drums. “My Old Man” is another example of a good Zac Brown song where he is being so passionate in what he is trying to say. I would have to say hands down this is the best song on the album, and will become a classic Zac Brown Band song within a few months, if it isn’t already. This song resonates with me personally as a kid in the southern United States who grew up close to his dad. It’s emotional, minimal, southern, and brilliant.
Then Zac Brown manages to mess everything up by following the best song on the album with one of Zac’s worst songs ever, “Start Over”. You have some low brow Bar Fly yelping at the beginning of the song over this annoying galloping acoustic guitar. Then Zac Brown delivers us one of his all time worst chorus’ ever with the lines “Smoke a J by the waves while we sip on some ice cold Corona!”, like alright man. Then in the song’s interlude he bring’s in some royal violin music like he is in a European Ballroom or something. When I first heard this song I began laughing uncontrollably, it is really that bad. I am unsure if this was an attempt to replicate one of his sunny beach songs from “Uncaged” or an attempt to follow up “Castaway”, the tropical song from Zac’s last album, “Jekyll + Hyde”, which I was personally fond of. Complete trash of a song and a low-point on the album. Then the next song is “Your Majesty” which I won’t even get into its just mediocre and passionless. The follow up to that song, “Trying to Drive” is a song from Zac’s live album, “Pass The Jar”, and I wish it would have stayed on that album. “Pass The Jar” was recorded in 2010, so it has been seven years since we have heard this song. This really makes me believe Zac Brown was on a deadline when he recorded this album and just didn’t have enough time. Also NOBODY deserved to hear yet another Man and Woman country duet where they have conflicting ideas but end up loving each other at the end of the day, what an eye roll. The final track, “All The Best” is pretty decent I actually like it. It’s primarily acapella, and they chose a good album closer.
So, I didn’t think this album was great. However what we have to realize is that country music is completely single based. Even in the early days of country music people would listen to singles on the jukebox. The best way to approach country music is to only focus on the good songs and ignore the really bad ones. Every musician makes a bad album as well and this is that album for Zac Brown. My dislike for this album does not decrease my interest for Zac Brown’s music, I am still a fan. I am just not going to like something that is bad because a good musician made it.
Release Date: 12 May 2017
Genres: Country, Country Rock, Country Pop.
Track Highlights: 2 Places at 1 Time, Roots, My Old Man.
- Real Thing
- Long Haul
- 2 Places at 1 Time
- Family Table
- My Old Man
- Start Over
- Your Majesty
- Trying to Drive
- All The Best
i. e. 5.1/10