From the opening joyful moments of “Jump Right In” it was easy to see that Zac Brown Band have returned with an album that feels like the growth us ‘critics’ are always hoping for while fans usually want more of the same of what made them fans in the first place. Not only does Zac Brown sing better than ever but the music literally jumps right out of the speakers and with “Jump Right In” you’re are immediately immersed in a glorious acoustic-based wall of sound that is unlike any other country band out there. “Jump Right In” is hands-down the best album opening track of the year and there’s little doubt in my mind that it’ll be another big hit for the now seven-piece band (Not bad for a song co-written with popster Jason Mraz, eh?).
They get a little ‘prog-country’ on the title track “Uncaged” but the song never loses the foundation and the electric guitar is joined by fiddle and hammond organ in a sound that allows the band room to showcase their musicality while also allowing three instruments to lead the way ‘uncaged’ and just go where the music takes them. “Island Song” is an all out reggae song (one of two stylistic diversions Clay Cook mentions in our interview with the band) that is a place where new member Daniel de los Reyes persuasive grooves shine while lead single “The Wind” feels like an instant classic and one place where the band gets to showcase their musicality once again.
The same can be said about “Natural Disaster,” another likely radio hit with tight vocal harmonies. There are some really interesting ballads on the record including “Day That I Die,” a song which also features Philly soul singer Amos Lee, “Sweet Annie,” “Goodbye In Her Eyes” and “Lance’s Song,” each brilliant showcases of country storytelling with the latter one a beautiful story about a man who lived life the way he wanted to, not the way others may have wanted him to live while “Overnight” is a sultry full-on R&B song which features Trombone Shorty adding some New Orleans jazzy soul to the album. It’s a song that could really do well on the R&B radio charts and reminds me of the kind of strong R&B Robin Thicke makes. The closer “Last But Not Least” is the perfect bookend to a record with the opener “Jump Right In” in the sense that it showcases this family-first band and frontman not forgetting those closest to them.
Uncaged is without a doubt the best album of this band’s career and make no mistake, the Zac Brown Band are clearly a band in every sense of the word. This is a band who makes music for the joy of making music and because of their natural sensibilities, the band has been able to carve out a remarkable nice in country music and in the touring circuit and Uncaged only enhances their status as the best band in country music.