There are no surprises with Zac Brown Band’s You Get What You Give. There are folk musings, reggae beats and country tunes -- as usual. However, it’s also extremely reliable. And to some extent, reliability is what we look for in a Zac Brown album.
Nevertheless, Brown’s latest work has a rare song where he truly sounds heartbroken. “Cold Hearted”, also one of the most country tracks on the disc, tells the story of a man who has been stabbed in the back by a devil-in-disguise. Even so, Brown doesn’t have the cold heart to hurt her back. Instead, he hopes somebody else will do the dirty deed so she suffers just as he did. This one is followed by “Whiskey’s Gone”, which praises alcohol as a cure for a broken heart. There is one other song that has the potential to leave Brown brokenhearted. The single, “As She’s Walking Away”, features a vocal cameo from Alan Jackson. On it, Jackson plays a wise elder who will not sit by idly and watch Brown lose the one true love of his life. Of course, if that woman in the bar spies Alan Jackson looking on, it might just be a moot point. Jackson always gets the girl.
Hurt, as detailed in a few of these songs, is just not Brown’s usual persona. He’s much better at playing Georgia’s version of Jimmy Buffett; a guy that utilizes the beach as his doctor, not the bottle. In fact, Mr. Buffett himself shows up to sing with Brown on “Knee Deep”, a song that’s all about the whole take-it-easy lifestyle. “No Hurry” also plays the R&R card.
There are a few additional places when Brown ascribes medicinal value to music. On “I Play the Road”, he balances the toll an itinerant touring life burdens families, with the way that unique performer-audience relationship can be such a comforting routine. The album’s title comes from a song called “Martin”. Martin is not about any man however. Instead, it’s an ode to his trusty Martin guitar.
During his quieter moments, Brown sounds a lot like folk-ster, James Taylor. He can also play the part of a jam band leader, though. Nevertheless, only “Who Knows” revs up his jam band tendencies. Brown is at his reggae best during “Settle Me Down”. With its slight anti commercialism lyrical slant, Brown lets the tune’s oceanic rhythm swing and sway him wherever the music goes. This song’s spiked organ notes particularly stand out.
Brown’s acoustic guitar playing helps set his songs apart from nearly everything else on country radio. It’s such a treat to hear a guy that loves this natural approach to playing guitar. And it’s for this reason the song “Colder Weather” might fool you at first. There’s hardly any guitar on it at all, but a whole lot of acoustic piano, instead. And when the guitars are tamped down a bit, as they are here, it’s much easier to notice what a fine singing group the Zac Brown Band is. “As She’s Walking Away” is another track that highlights this group’s above average vocals.
For the most part, you’ll have no trouble identifying these 14 tracks as distinctly Zac Brown Band songs. Brown won’t make Elvis Costello jealous with his wordplay. But Costello has never made music that sounded this natural, either. The Zac Brown Band is just hitting its stride, so we may be in for a lot of great music, for a long time to come. We will greatly take what this act has to give.
If you prefer your music to be more than ones and zeroes you can purchase the album at Amazon.
- Let It Go (Zac Brown/Wyatt Durrette)
- Keen Deep [featuring Jimmy Buffett] (Zac Brown/Wyatt Durrette/Coy Bowles/Jeffrey Steel)
- No Hurry (Zac Brown/Wyatt Durrette/James Otto)
- I Play The Road (Zac Brown/Wyatt Durrette/John Driskell Hopkins)
- Cold Hearted (Zac Brown/Nic Cowan)
- Whiskey’s Gone (Zac Brown/Wyatt Durrette)
- Quiet Your Mind (Zac Brown/Wyatt Durrette)
- Colder Weather (Zac Brown/Wyatt Durrette/Levi Lowrey/Coy Bowles)
- Settle Me Down (Zac Brown/Wyatt Durrette/Coy Bowles)
- As She’s Walking Away [Featuring Alan Jackson] (Zac Brown/Wyatt Durrette)
- Keep Me In Mind (Zac Brown/Wyatt Durrette/Nic Cowan)
- Who Knows (Zac Brown/Joel Williams)
- Martin (Zac Brown)
- Make This Day (Zac Brown/Wyatt Durrette/Nic Cowan)
You Get What You Give was produced by Keith Stegall and Zac Brown.