Album Review: Zach Top - “Cold Beer & Country Music”

The Traditional country revivalist’s debut for new label Leo33 showcases how vibrant country music has always been and continues to be.

Working with songwriters like Mark Nesler, Paul Overstreet, Roger Springer, Michael White, Wyatt McCubbin and producer Carson Chamberlain, it’s easy to see the how and why newcomer Zach Top was the inaugural artist signed to new record label Leo33. Top, for his part, is a co-writer on each of Cold Beer & Country Music’s dozen tracks and the lead radio single “Sounds Like The Radio” was the perfect introduction. The song, which broke into the Top 40 prior to the album launch (and no small feat for a burgeoning record label) just fits Top’s country voice to a T as he sings about the music that he loves to listen to on the radio (“A little bit of fiddle and a whole lot of country gold”). It’s a love-letter to radio while also a great mission statement for the entire album.

The beauty in the presentation of Cold Beer & Country Music is that Zach Top is so genuine in approach with his 90s country style it’s as if the album was recorded 30 years ago, not in the past 12 months. That, my friends, is high praise and exactly why Zach Top is poised to do what Randy Travis and Keith Whitley did in the mid-late 1980s, bringing back country music song structure and storytelling (and sounds) to the genre. Now, songs like “Cowboys Like Me Do,” “Use Me” and “I Never Lie” may not reinvent any wheel but they don’t need to when they bring a refreshing feel to a sound and style of country music that is indeed still very popular. Top, who is a native of Washington state, proves — like Blaine Larsen before him — that country music and people are everywhere and the south doesn’t dominate their sound. Top, like Whitley, Marty Raybon and Joe Diffie before him, also started in Bluegrass music and that genre gave him a structure for him to build his roots in country music. His vocal (which really is a tenor combination of all the best parts of each of those mentioned above) is unique in modern country music and his vocal phrasing is amongst the best and straight out of the school of George Jones and Merle Haggard.

It’d be easy to say “this song is lovely” and “that song” is great too but in reality, every song on Cold Beer & Country Music deserves multiple plays and Zach Top is an artist we need to champion. He’s part of the new wave bringing country music with actual country music instruments (fiddle, steel guitar, twangy telecasters, etc) back to the sonic forefront with song lyrics we all can relate to and that’s a mighty fine thing, indeed.

Zach Top Cold Beer & Country Music