New Music Tuesday: Zac Brown Band

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I’m usually on the fence about country music, the fence between my back forty and… never mind… seems that too much of what passes for country music these days is really just watered down, flacid pop music (see Carrie Underwood or Faith Hill). Now before you get all up in my grits about this criticism, I ask you to look at what I would consider real country and try to tell me otherwise. For instance:  Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, Buck Owens, Charlie Daniels Band… to name a few. Like everything else, country music has evolved. These days it’s quite popular to “mash-up” country and hip-hop, and why? Because the same kids who listen to country also listen to hip-hop. Everyone has an opinion about their favorite kind of music, how it’s not like it used to be, how it was so much better back then, etc. but for me country music is defined by a sound that comes from the earth itself; tales of open roads, trouble in town, lost loves; and it has to, mandatory, it has to have some real mean pickin’ and grinnin’. Much as I like Shania Twain (and I do) she hasn’t been country since they dropped the fiddle and went for the electronica dance remixes (see “I’m Gonna Get You Good”).

Last week in a Twitter post, Miley Cyrus said “If you like Jimmy Buffet, you’ll love Zac Brown, he rocks and he’s a hillbilly and I can say that cuz I’m one too.” Miley certainly ought to know a thing or two about country music, she’s Nashville born and raised, her dad ruined the genre with “Achy Breaky Heart” (also inspiring millions to line dance… well, can’t hold it against him forever) and her own music runs the gamut from dance pop to country (see “The Climb”). I tend to listen when Miley talks (Tweets) so I went and picked up the Zac Brown Band’s The Foundation over the weekend. I was not led astray. At first there is a very obvious Jimmy Buffet connection (not a problem for me) with a few songs about escaping to an island paradise, kicking back with a cold beer and a hot girl but later on the CD we’re treated to some incredible sittin’-on-the-back-porch-drinkin’-moonshine-blazin’-a-fatty down home, roots hillbilly country music. I can only imagine a Friday night at Miley’s house is like this. (see the video link below) Yes, The Foundation dies in the middle with a few too many mid-tempo tales of romance gone awry or romance rising, but overall, it’s high points are worth the listen. As Rolling Stone likes to suggest: download these now – “Sic Em on a Chicken”, “Toes”, “Where the Boat Leaves From,” “It’s not OK.” Thanks, Miley!

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