Before the Zac Brown Band released their last album Jekyll and Hyde in 2015, I had had a great deal of respect for them even though they were never one of my favorite bands. Like most mainstream acts I had liked their early work but began to like their more commercial music less with time. What I really disliked about their music the most were the beach songs which seem to be released as a single on every one of their albums. I just don’t really feel anything when I listen to the radio made beach songs and the Zac Brown Band is obviously capable of much more interesting and thoughtful music. When Welcome Home was announced as their follow up album to the mess that was Jekyll and Hyde, they had promised to get back to their roots “Foundation Style” (first album). Honestly when I heard them go out of their way to talk about getting back to their roots I believed them and when “My Old Man” was released as the lead single I had very high hopes for this album.
So, with that all being said did the Zac Brown Band actually make good on their promise and get back to “Foundation Style” music? After many listens to Welcome Home I can’t say anything really except yes. Now the album isn’t perfect and has moments that feel a little too safe and boring but as far as getting back to their roots musically they are there. The lead single “My Old Man” is a really great song that is a tribute to Zac’s father. The production is very dialed back and the music is mostly acoustic with a light fiddle in the background. It’s a song that is one of the few songs that I would classify as great on country radio.
The album opens with the song “Roots” that really shows the band trying to move past the EDM nonsense even if Zac is still pursing that on the side. No matter where this life takes him his roots always keep him grounded and remind him of where he belongs. Where I have my most criticism of this album is the fact that it is too safe and too generic. Songs like “Real Thing” and “Family Table” are other songs on the album that are far from unique and frankly bore me. And I am pretty sure we don’t need to hear another beach song from the Zac Brown Band so can you just make “Start Over” go away? The idea for the song is actually not bad with two married people trying to save their marriage by going on a vacation to a tropical paradise. But, the song is weirdly happy and upbeat for a song about a failing marriage and it’s pretty obvious a few days on a vacation won’t save this marriage.
I think I have done enough criticizing at this point so let me say what I love about this album. I already mentioned the fact that “My Old Man” is a fantastic song but so are the final three tracks on Welcome Home. “Your Majesty” is a beautiful love song with tremendous fiddle play. It’s honestly a song that I would love to listen to on the beach as opposed to “Start Over” because it’s a song that is easy going and relaxing but actually has something to say which is important to keeping my attention. “Trying to Drive” is another great love song featuring pop singer Aslyn. I’m usually not a fan of pop singers on country songs but she really doesn’t sound out of place on this song and the two sound good together.
Finally, the album concludes with what is probably my favorite song on the album “All The Best.” This song supposedly features Kacey Musgraves but I can hardly hear her! I would like this song even more if Kacey had more of a prominent role. The song is about wishing your former lover love and happiness even if it can’t be with you. The narrator loves her too much to wish her anything but the best. He even hopes that she doesn’t make the mistake that he makes by falling in love with someone that will break her heart. Zac sounds terrific on this track and bravo on the dialed back production again, less really is more here. It’s a shame these last three songs were buried at the end because along with “My Old Man” they are the real highlights.
Overall I have to admit I am a little bit disappointed in this album. After I heard “My Old Man” and “All The Best” I was convinced this would be one of my album’s of the year. It’s not that this is a bad album though and good for the Zac Brown Band for getting back to their roots with this album. I find this to be a solid album overall and surely one of the best mainstream albums that will be released all year. Not an album of the year contender but a damn solid album.
Grade: 7.5/10 B-
Best Songs: All the Best, My Old Man, Your Majesty