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Album Review: “The Foundation” by Zac Brown Band

November 18, 2008

The Foundation 4 Stars

The word “foundation” refers to a starting point or a means of trying to establish something. That is exactly what this album portrays for the Zac Brown Band, a look at the foundation that they have built themselves off of. Every track is original material, but this small time band from Georgia’s first major label project shows off so many diverse aspects to country music as a whole it’s hard not to explore the many influences that thrive in this band’s music.

From tropical to classical, a good 75% of the wide range of country genres is incorporated throughout this project. However this isn’t an album of covers, it is an album of completely original material almost completely associated with at least one of the band members in the writing credits. With that in mind this project mirrors the the many popular sounds that radio tends to love so much while paying respect to those who first established that sound. In addition it is also notable that the band manages to draw on the many direction the genre can take without letting the listener lose sight of who they are listening to. Every track is the Zac Brown Band and them alone, even with obvious influences it is clear that these guys are their own entity.

To stretch the boundaries of country music as far as they could, the band drew on the popular sounds of two of the most controversial artist that have helped with the rising popularity of the genre. The opening track “Toes” is very reminiscent of a Kenny Chesney-type beach bum song. The concept surrounds a man who has left the hustle and bustle of busy life for the beaches and is loving it so much he declares that he is never going back. The funny thing here is that, with all do respect to Chesney, this band tackles this type of song with more respect to traditional country than Chesney ever did. Along the same line is “Where The Boat Leaves From” which is more directed towards the sounds of Jimmy Buffet. It provides a much more solid island feel to it and reveals that the Zac Brown Band, despite their stereotype as a “farm based act” are much more diverse in their writing than many may have believed.

Of course in that same sense this band IS country. They draw off of both neo-traditional and traditional sounds in this album that serve as a right resemblance to some of the genres most timeless acts. “What Ever It Takes” is more geared towards a modern traditional sound. The harmonies the band shares bring back the perfection of Alabama and Diamond Rio and reasserts the idea of a band as one entity not just a singer and some musicians. Concerning more solo acts is “Highway 20 Ride” which not only offers a very heartfelt father/daughter connection in its lyric but brings some of the most sentimental guitar playing country has heard in a while, relevant to Steve Wariner and some of Brad Paisley’s better material.

From a more traditional standpoint the Zac Brown Band certainly knows how to do justice to the roots of the genre. The violin intro to “Free” sounds very much like a Charlie Daniels solo and when the song actually starts it shows off a little bit of bluegrass influence that has been absent to this extremity for a while in the genre. This same aspect is shared in “Mary” which is much more fast paced, with toe-taping quality. But this is not where the most traditional influence stands out. The very fast paced “It’s Not OK” first addresses the likes of bassy country legends like Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings and even includes the talking aspect of these great legends that always added flair and truth to their songs, even if it was something ridiculous. the closing track “Sic ‘Em On A Chicken”, while not the most glorious track in the project, also contains these traditionalist qualities, but also sounds like a song worthy of modern day rock/country stars like Jason Aldean or Big & Rich. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say Rich actually wrote this song.

Although this project is filled with reminiscent material, it is not completely an influence based project. Zac Brown and his band bring in a lot of their own sound as well. Their first single “Chicken Fried” is a rowdy and yet poetic shout out to country and all aspect of it, from the lifestyle to the music. This serves as the foundation itself of the bands original sound and, with an open mind, its not even that difficult to realize where these guys are coming from in their approach to their music. “A Different Kind Of Fine” is the same way, helping to support the bands own image and reminding the listener, in the middle of the project, that these guys are not copycats.

It’s hard to listen to this album and not be able to pick out the influences each song brings to the table. With that in mind it is also quite difficult to ignore that every song is the Zac Brown Band. As a debut project this is something special, it offers a look, appropriately, into the foundation of one of the biggest underdog acts in the genre from the past few years. With the help of producer Keith Stegall this album helped the band establish their own identity by ironically drawing on others. The only concern that I can find here is that this will be a consistent thing for the band, but hopefully the next time around the Zac Brown Band will reveal the rest of their unique abilities with one complete sound all their own.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Srinivas Bhushan permalink
    October 17, 2009 11:25 pm

    This band is amazing. The music’s great. Looking forward to listening to more new songs by zac Brown band.

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