The Zac Brown Band's major label debut, "The Foundation," stormed onto radio waves just a few short years ago, challenging all to embrace the Country Fried and get our Toes in the sand. ZBB's latest builds upon that sound structure, offering up yet more island-flavored jams (Knee Deep, Settle Me Down), some classic country (Cold Hearted, Martin) and some smoky barroom jam sessions (Who Knows). They also bring along a few friends in Jimmy Buffett and Alan Jackson whose presence tends to suggest a note of acceptance for this band.
The band's greatest asset continues to be their sharp musicianship and tight playing. Evoking some heartfelt moments with tales of love and loss alongside keen harmonies that are offset later on by blazing fiddle breakdowns and stirring guitar solos is a hallmark that ZBB needs to keep in their wheelhouse. And complementing the instrumentation are the flexible lead vocals of Brown, able to croon at one instance and growl at another.
In addition to that, Zac Brown (with songwriting credits on every song) is a keen wordsmith, writing lyrics that tug at the heart strings and tapping emotions throughout. Consider the wintry betrayal of Cold Hearted:
"Pretty little words covered your dark and crooked heart/ With a forked tongue I fell in love, / Then I fell apart / You are so / Cold hearted"
While not a major departure from their major label debut, ZBB has evolved enough to keep the music interesting. Yet on the whole, this album seems to cling to the age-old maxim, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." In this case, that's just fine.