Country Confessional: My Actual Opinion On Zac Brown Band’s ‘Jekyll + Hyde’

Jekyll and Hyde cover

Last week for this feature I talked about one album from last year that really connected with me on a personal level, and in all honesty I’ve been looking to explore that again. While I would have liked to space them out a little better, I honestly can’t, mostly because the moment will be gone otherwise.

As I’m sure all or most of you know, the Zac Brown Band are to set to release their new album, Welcome Home this Friday, and after the genre-bending album that was Jekyll + HydeWelcome Home is set to be an album that sees the band returning to their roots (as evidenced by the pre-release tracks thus far).

Now, I’ve already talked about Jekyll (pretty recently actually), and if we existed in 2015 we would definitely have covered it. What we would have said about it two years ago versus what we would say today are two different things however.

Let’s get one thing straight, while I respect the fact that Zac wanted to explore other genres, I DO NOT approve of sending “Beautiful Drug” to country radio. I’m not an advocate of the “who needs genre” argument, and it’s because of stuff like that (among many other things). I also think this would have worked much better as a side project rather than a full studio album. But aside from that, while I know the critical reception to this was lukewarm at best, I kind of dug it.

Now again, I’m not a fan of the “who needs genre” argument, but I also don’t want to tell artists what they can and can’t do. Aside from that, I didn’t mind the mesh of sounds at all, in fact, I really liked it for the most part.

Now, I’ve already let it be known that I’m a fan of the hard rockers like “Heavy Is The Head” and “Junkyard”, especially the latter track. I’ve also let it be known that I’m a fan of songs like “Remedy”, “Homegrown”, “Bittersweet”, and “Dress Blues”, and the acoustic version of “Tomorrow Never Comes”, mostly because all of them lean more towards the country spectrum than anything else. Those are the “cool” tracks to like.

I have to admit, I like more than that, and in truth, if High Valley’s Dear Life had the honor of being one of my most played of 2016. this album would be fighting with William Clark Green’s Ringling Road for that same honor in 2015. So what’s the point of this anyway?

Well in truth, while I have appreciated their return to their roots on their new material thus far, I honestly still might like Jekyll + Hyde a tad better. I can’t connect to “My Old Man” at all mostly because I didn’t have a good relationship with my father. That’s not me saying this is a bad song, I’m just saying I can’t connect to it. I do like “All The Best” a lot, there’s some real emotion in that one that I can connect to. However, I just heard “Roots” today (this piece was written Friday), and I’m a little underwhelmed by that too for being weak lyrically. Moreover, “Family Table” is a little too on the nose with its message, and “Real Thing” is fine and all, but it doesn’t grab me as much as I want it too. 

Anyway, I know this is what I originally wanted for the band, but after re-examining the Jekyll Hyde album, well, there’s a part of me that’s a little sad.

It’s not like they hadn’t pulled off a mix of genres well before. 2012’s Uncaged is one of my favorite albums ever (something else I only discovered in the past couple years), and while I do like that album A LOT better, I still like Jekyll + Hyde.

Here’s the real kicker – one of my favorite songs on the album is “Tomorrow Never Comes”, one of two EDM/Pop/Dance (!) tracks on the album. I know a lot of people hated it, but I don’t know, there’s something about the buildup throughout that I like. I also find “Mango Tree” to be pretty fun as well. Oops. There’s also a lot of filler here, mostly towards the middle and end of the record, but as a whole, I like this a lot more than I should.

And I wanted to be upfront with that now, because when I sit down to cover their new album, I want to go in knowing that I’ve let my true opinion on the band’s decisions shown. I know my personal complaining didn’t do a damn thing to make them change their minds about going back to their roots (that was more of a collective whole), but still, while I’m glad they are shifting back to their Foundation sound, I’m hoping for a whole lot more here. To be fair, lyrics are one thing the band needed to work on with J + H, and ironically enough I’d at least argue that for “Roots”.

So, where would J + H fit on my “top albums of 2015” list then? Eh, probably top twenty. It’s a mess, no doubt, but I don’t mind it. So anyway, that’s the story of another time I let the critical consensus get to me. Next week we’ll bring up something else other than albums I actually like. I promise.


4 thoughts on “Country Confessional: My Actual Opinion On Zac Brown Band’s ‘Jekyll + Hyde’

  1. I don’t mind “Tomorrow Never Come”s, it’s less polarizing Electronic Pop than “Beautiful Drug”, and it fits with pop music’s love for staying young and Yolo. Like, it’s not a bad pop song. As an album, it’s a jarring listen, but I don’t mind going back to listen to certain songs frequently.

    HITH, Junkyard, Homegrown, Cast Away, Remedy, Bittersweet (probably my favorite), and an Isbell cover in Dress Blues. There’s actually a pretty good album hidden away between the Beautiful Drugs and Young and Wilds of the track list

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  2. This was an interesting album. Polarizing, but interesting. Beautiful Drug was bad, but honestly, in my opinion, overshadowed by even worse singles of the time. I mean, in 2015, we had Real Men Love Jesus, Ridiculous (remember that trainwreck?), Break Up In A Small Town, Break Up With Him, 3 consecutively bad Luke Bryan singles, BYHB (one of the worst songs of all time), Dibs, etc.

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  3. My #1 problem with this album was its length, not the genre-bending. I’ve said before it’s a bit jarring and unpleasant to listen it all at once, and I stand by that. It’s by no means pleasant to go from “Mango Tree” to “Heavy is the Head” to “Bittersweet,” so I think the order didn’t help. Having said that, if we trimmed that album down, I’d have loved it. “Beautiful Drug” didn’t even bother me until he released it to country radio…also it was slightly idiotic to open the album with it…but mostly it was because it was promised to not be released to country radio, and then it was. My second problem with that album was it was more about Zac Brown and less about the band, and my third is that there was less harmony and fiddle, which goes back to it being less about the band. Still, I actually loved both versions of “Tomorrow Never Comes” as well, “Castaway,” “Bittersweet,” “Homegrown,” “remedy,” and the rock songs. I enjoyed “Mango Tree” and “Dress blues” as well…and look, that’s a ten-song album, that’s about half country, but also genre-bending. I’d have loved that album. It was the fluffy, useless love songs like “One Day,” “young and Wild,” “Wildfire,” and “Loving You easy” that ultimately dragged that album down for me. There was no “Colder Weather” or “Sweet Annie” to round it off…so, I’d take those ten I mentioned previously and add something like that and you’d have an 11-song, 9/10 album, and genre-bending or not, I think critics would have been falling all over themselves. About their new one…I’m not liking it as much as I wanted to. ON another note, Uncaged is one of my favorite albums of all time.

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