Zac Brown Band are one of the most creative acts within the country genre and can effortlessly transition from more country leaning tracks to songs with rock and even EDM influences. Previous album Jekyll + Hyde encapsulates this versatility while their new project, Welcome Home, brings the band back to its roots.
Frontman and chief songwriter Zac Brown joined forces with frequent collaborators Niko Moon and Ben Simonetti for what he calls the band’s most personal release. The 10-track album recalls earlier work like 2008’s The Foundation with its heartfelt lyrics and standout musicianship.
Welcome Home fittingly begins with “Roots,” a soaring number that details Brown first picking up guitar as a child and making the road his home by the time he was 18. He’d soon find himself playing cover songs night after night while dreaming of playing with his heroes. The uplifting track reminds the listener, “don’t give up, hold on a little longer / what don’t kill you only gives you stronger roots.”
“Real Thing” follows suit and recalls early Zac Brown Band. The piano based track details the importance of the genuine things in life — memories of that first taste of whiskey with a family member, falling in love and music that touches the soul.
“You know a great song is hard to find / The right words and a perfect rhyme / ‘Cause we all feel the same inside / We’re all lookin’ for the real thing,” Brown sings.
Alongside the songs detailing the importance of one’s roots are tales of family and true love — the kind that beats all the odds. On the old-timey “Long Haul” Brown sings of being a difficult man to love but despite his flaws, he’s in it for the long haul. Meanwhile, “2 Places at 1 Time” details the struggles that life as a musician can often bring. While Brown vividly describes seeing the Northern Lights and “things that no one could believe,” he is tasked with the complexity of not being at home with his family. But, music is his calling so he’ll continue hoping to find “how to be two places at one time.”
Additional highlights include the emotional single “My Old Man” which has a young man hoping to bestow the lessons his father taught him upon his own son as well as the striking “Start Over.” The latter is a song that seamlessly blends ZBB’s influences between 1960s Motown, Jimmy Buffett’s island vibes and Spanish instrumentation.
Another striking moment includes the album closer, a cover of John Prine’s “All the Best” with Kacey Musgraves. Their stripped down interpretation highlights the soft harmonies between Brown and Musgraves as the duo effectively manage to make the song their own.
While there is no genre-bending experimentation on Welcome Home, there is plenty of heartfelt lyrics and Zac Brown Band’s remarkable musicianship. Yes, the album harkens back to the band’s early career but it was those sing-along anthems that built their ever-growing fan base. And, many of the songs featured on their new record will likely become fan favorites and future staples in the band’s live show. Those missing the storytelling and honesty from country music will find a permanent place in their home for Zac Brown Band’s latest effort Welcome Home.