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Zac Brown Band

Welcome Home – 2017 (Southern Ground)

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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With "Welcome Home," the Zac Brown Band continues to do what it does best, which is making quality roots music. In fact, one of the album's songs is even titled "Roots." Brown may not be the most religious guy, but his latest songs focus on many truly spiritual cornerstones of life: family and friends.

Both "Family Table" and "My Old Man" find Brown reflecting on his family life, with the latter also looking at 'the here and now' of being a father himself. But when it comes to romantic musings, Brown twice turns to the traveling metaphor. With "Long Haul," he sings of his commitment to togetherness - for the long run. Then with "Trying to Drive," which also features Aslyn, he struggles with the how problematic in can be whenever two partners both try to do the driving - at the same time.

While "Welcome Home" is consistent, it is sometimes a little too predictably so. Brown may have been criticized for introducing EDM elements into his "Beautiful Drug" song off "Jekyll + Hyde," one is sometimes left wishing he would have shaken things up a little bit more with this effort. With that said, though, Brown is to be applauded for always choosing wonderful songs to cover. He previously recorded the underappreciated Jason Isbell's "Dress Blue," and here gives us a quiet, thoughtful performance of John Prine's "All the Best." In this case comparison, though, the humor and emotional depth of the Prine song points out how these two noteworthy lyrical elements are sometimes missing from Brown's own sincere (but many times rather dull) songs.

Like Alan Jackson, it's easy to take Brown's sturdy songwriting performances for granted. But this time out, there are few songs that stand out and stick with the listener long after the music's stopped. He may feel warmly welcomed at home, but perhaps it's time he ventured out a bit more.