While Zac Brown Band last made a new album just two years ago with The Owl, that album saw the group experiment with its sound. Truth be told, we haven’t heard as much of the classic, banjo-heavy country feel from the group as of late. Perhaps aptly titled, The Comeback changes that and feels like a return to the more traditional roots that brought the band into the spotlight, back when it biggest song was about fried chicken. Fifteen solid songs traverse ’90s-influenced country; full of fiddles, bluegrass and fun-loving lyricism that leaves the album with a well-rounded feel.
The Comeback, while written with the collective healing of the nation in mind, also feels personal. Many of the songs pull from real-world experiences for the band members. Zac Brown wrote One of the most exciting tunes, “Fun Having Fun,” with one of his old high school buddies about all the crazy shenanigans they used to get into when they were young. It offers the most upbeat bluegrass vibes here and sounds like wild youth boiled down into a few musical minutes.
Georgia has always been a deep inspiration well for Zac Brown Band, as most of the members grew up and got their start in the Peach State. “GA Clay,” a country-rock crossover full of electric guitars right from the start, speaks of coming from the red clay and eventually returning to it. Other tracks that bring out the personal songwriting include the bluesy “Stubborn Pride,” featuring Marcus King, and lullaby “Wild Palomino.”
Zac Brown Band has also gotten particularly good at storytelling, the progression of which shows through each subsequent album. Ballad “Slow Burn,” which open the album, speaks of young love that remains long after the moment is gone. The song seems to be about those little details that elicit strong memories, like the way the stars look one night or that song you haven’t thought about in ages suddenly coming on the radio.
“Love & Sunsets” is another simple acoustic offering that recognizes how nice it is that love and sunsets are free in life. “You can’t buy the way I feel right now,” Brown sings as he details a drive to finding the perfect sunset while acknowledging that expensive things aren’t the same as the priceless ones. For more songs on the album that showcase the band’s strong acumen for weaving narratives, check out young love tune “Us Against The World.”
One of the more ambitious songs on The Comeback is “Old Love Song,” which compiles some of the best-known love songs over the past couple of decades, “Moulin Rouge”-style. There’s references to Tom Petty, Bill Withers, Aerosmith and Billy Joel as Brown sings, “Let me love you like an old love song.” Zac Brown Band also tackles post-pandemic reality head-on on the title track, which paints America’s comeback as an underdog story. On the surface, it doesn’t seem like a “fun” song, but it does try to focus on togetherness and community as opposed to the dark side of the tunnel.
Life was no doubt simpler when Brown was singing about fried chicken, cold beer and a loud radio. But Zac Brown Band seems to remind listeners that no matter where in the world you find yourself, music has the potential to unify. The Comeback gives off more than just one note and will appeal to more than fans of traditional country. It’s a strong return.
Follow writer Piper Westrom at Twitter.com/plwestrom.