Earlier this year Zac Brown Band headlined the third and final night of C2C: Country to Country at The O2 Arena in London. It marked the second time the band had headlined the annual festival and they were far and away the stand out across the weekend. With the charismatic Zac Brown leading, Zac Brown Band have a likeability and warmth, that coupled with great songs, has seen them emerge as one of the leading acts in country music. Two years after Jekyll + Hyde, Zac Brown Band return with their new album Welcome Home.
Embracing the advantages of modern technology, Zac Brown Band have been teasing Welcome Home for months prior to its arrival. From the release of the sentimental tear-jerker My Old Man through to live performances of tracks from Welcome Home, it feels like I’m already pretty well acquainted with the album before I’ve even heard it all the way through for the first time. When the band incorporated songs from Welcome Home during their C2C, they fit seamlessly suggesting that Zac Brown Band understand their audience incredibly well.
Welcome Home embraces a more homely and simple sound than the more experimental Jekyll + Hyde. While the latter leaned more heavily towards pop, Welcome Home takes things back to basics and reconnects with the sound that gave Zac Brown Band their breakthrough. The album opens with Roots, a song that sounds almost like a declaration as to the band’s intent with the record. It builds from simple acoustic riffs to a more fully-formed chorus that soars, lifted by Brown’s fantastic vocals.
That appreciation of the old is rife throughout the album and dare I say it’s somewhat a return to form. Jekyll + Hyde was divisive and reading some other critics’ opinions of Welcome Home, they aren’t appreciating its simplicity, but for me the very organic approach to the album is what makes it so enjoyable. The superb Real Thing has all the hallmarks of an enduring commercial smash, Family Table injects folk sensibilities into a celebration of connecting with those who are your flesh and blood, and Start Over has the feel of a mariachi band, something that the band has embraced previously.
The highlight on the album is the collaboration with Aslyn on Trying to Drive. Aslyn’s soulful vocals complement Brown’s and when they come together, the end result is pure magic. It’s a welcome moment that deviates from the more acoustic feel of the album, injecting a little bit of soul rock into the mix.
The album comes to a close with a cover of John Prine’s All the Best featuring Kacey Musgraves. The song fits neatly into the track listing and if you didn’t know any better, you’d think it was a Zac Brown Band original.
Welcome Home is sure to delight Zac Brown Band fans. Those who felt a little disappointed with Jekyll + Hyde will find plenty to embrace on this release. I like the low key feel of the record and the emotive honesty that runs through the lyrics. I would still maintain that Zac Brown Band is best experienced live but until they head back to the UK, Welcome Home will fill the void nicely.
Track List: 1. Roots 2. Real Thing 3. Long Haul 4. 2 Places at 1 Time 5. Family Time 6. My Old Man 7. Start Over 8. Your Majesty 9. Trying to Drive (featuring Aslyn) 10. All the Best (featuring Kacey Musgraves) Record Label: Atlantic Records Release Date: 12th May 2017