Change brings new dimensions to the Zac Brown Band

Multiple producers make ZBB'z latests album, JEKYLL and HYDE, unique.

Anne Riley, Correspondent

When it comes to Zac Brown Band (ZBB), the headlines speak for themselves. All three of their previous studio albums have gone platinum, and they’ve sold out shows at venues like Fenway Park and the Hollywood Bowl. Scoring 13 top 10s on the Hot Country Songs chart prior to their newest album, “JEKYLL and HYDE,” Zac Brown Band has continually impressed their  audience with each new album they produce. The Georgia-based group is best known for their southern country-rock sound and homey, faithful vibe. ZBB fans have grown a fondness for heartwarming songs on faith and patriotism, and witty deep-fried tributes, and romance about laid-back good times. The extremely popular band added a new dimension to their sound with the newest album released April 28, 2015.

“JEKYLL and HYDE,” the band’s fourth studio album – is an exploratory and genre-twisting album that features multi-instrumental works intertwined with their staple country-western sound. “There will be things that people will expect and things that they won’t,” Brown told Rolling Stone. Brown was referring to stepping out of the box and giving the audience something they weren’t expecting with this album. ZBB has achieved matching the band’s onstage liveliness, and the musical personality shifts help relieve the group’s tendency to blandness. It features styles with such a wide variety — Seventies Philly soul, old-timey gospel, Celtic folk, metal, reggae, jazz — they could be a single-band music-placement agency.

The change isn’t something long-standing fans necessarily responded positively to. The band seems to be pulling away from their romance-driven albums in the past, which could be due to the change in production companies. The most popular song on the album “Homegrown” was co-produced by Brown and Jay Joyce, most well known for blockbuster projects like Little Big

Town’s Pain Killer and Eric Church’s most recent album, “The Outsiders”. ZBB added dozens of new people to their extended team for this album, including the lead singer’s own label Southern Grind Artists partnered with Big Machine Label Group, John Varvatos Records, and Republic Records. This was a big move by Brown considering they broke their ties Warner’s Music’s New York based Atlantic Records last year when they released a session album with Brown’s Southern Grind. This new team maintains an excellent amount of creative and administrative power while still collaborating to boost them into a global sensation. “We’ve got an amazing team, an amazing amount of horsepower. It would have taken that for me to work with a major label group, and now I feel like I’m getting three of them in exchange for the licensing for this album…” Brown said in an interview with Rolling Stone.

There is no doubt Brown can belt out a tune and fill a stadium with his unmistakeable voice. This is especially showcased in the fiddle-heavy lead single “Homegrown” which is built around the refrain “I got everything I need, and nothing that I don’t,” and while it probably won’t be winning any awards for lyrical innovation, it coheres well. “Homegrown” is the most familiar tune in regards to the band’s past country-western sound, nonetheless it will never live up to the beauty of past songs like “Whatever It Is”, “Highway 20 Ride”, or “Sweet Annie”. This album also included guest features like the pop sensation, Sara Bareilles in “Mango Tree”, a Jimmy Buffet-Kenny Chesney Caribbean reggae feel disguised as a retro swing song that will have you tapping your toe and imagining yourself on a beach in the Bahamas.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, “Junkyard” has a sharp focus on the dismay of domestic abuse and features a more metal vibe.

Zac Brown Band is changing their signature sound, not the ideal circumstance for most followers, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing either. One thing remains the same, there is always going to be anticipation for what each new album holds, whether its another new step outside of their comfort zone or reverting back to their old ways.