I don’t really want to write this, but in a way I feel like I have to. The responses I’ve seen to Zac Brown Band’s Welcome Home album have seemingly only gotten continously worse and worse. At first I saw signs of praise from people who were happy that the band had returned to their roots on their new album. Right now it seems like all I see are comments of “boring”, “disappointing”, “calculated”, and I’m beginning to see more of these types of comments than I am positive ones.
Now, opinions are opinions, and I respect them just as I ask you respect mine. I’m one of the few who actually likes this record, but in my own piece I stated that I saw the flaws with this record. I just chose to mention them and then acknowledge that they weren’t my criticisms because if I did otherwise, I would have been dishonest with myself.
But that doesn’t change the fact that some of the comments that echo this record are making my head spin. Before we move on though, let me stress that it’s always important to separate who people are as people and who they are as artists. I may think Jason Aldean and Sturgill Simpson (yeah, I used their names in the same sentence. Fight me) are complete, arrogant pricks, but that doesn’t mean I can let that cloud my judgment walking into their new music.
Forget the whole stripper incident and critic comments that are connected to Zac from last year. Those are just a part of the icing on this *wonderful* cake. Actually, it’s not even that Zac Brown necessarily said anything controversial in a recent Fox News story, it’s just his particular comment means so much more than what it says on paper. Here it is:
“People will have a hard time hating on this record”.
I’m being captain obvious here but that’s of course in reference to the band’s new album, Welcome Home. First of all, as evidenced by some feedback by critics and fans (hell, even Taste Of Country called this a risky project), one can “hate” or the very least find fault in this record. Well, perhaps they don’t hate it necessarily, but to find it “calculated”, “boring”, and “safe”? I’ve heard all three of those.
But again, it’s more about what it symbolizes versus what it actually says. We all know that Zac has an itch for recording electronic music as evidenced by the whole Sir Roosevelt side project. We also know that he had an itch to be experimental with 2015’s Jekyll + Hyde, an album that’s surprisingly almost less polarizing than their new one! Now, whether or not Zac actually wanted to get back to his roots or if he was just sick of the Jekyll + Hyde criticisms is a little murky, but regardless, Zac had a way of making the Zac Brown Band work as well as make Sir Roosevelt work, so what’s the harm right?
But the line about us having a hard time hating on this record to me suggests that this album was almost a way to just shut us fans up so we’d love the band again. It worked for me, sure, but I saw through the facade as well. The main thing about Welcome Home is that yes, the foundation was there (no pun intended, seriously), but the lyrical content was surely more than hokey and corny on a few occasions. “Roots”, “Real Thing”, and “Family Table”…hell if it wasn’t for the little moments in the instrumentation or the harmonies, I might not like these songs either. They are objectively formulaic in their approach, and while I don’t agree with people who say things such as “Start Over is Toes without the energy” or that “2 Places at 1 Time and All The Best are boring”, well…it’s still there.
It makes me question whether or not Zac’s heart is truly in this, especially when he states in that same article that he has no idea what the next project will be like. Granted, that’s a broad statement and could mean a number of things, but it still makes you wonder. So yeah Zac Brown, just because you returned to your roots doesn’t mean that you automatically hit a homerun. The heart has to be there, and while I don’t know for sure that it’s not here, I also don’t know if it is now, even if I do like it a lot.
If the band is looking to expand on what they did with Uncaged, go for it. If it’s something else that has some real weight and heart behind it, I’m all in. But for God’s sake Zac, don’t think like a businessman anymore. Don’t be Jason Aldean who gives his fans an album every couple of years just to shut them up and keep them happy. The fans are better than that, and so are you. Welcome home indeed Zac Brown, but now I have to wonder if you’re really a modern day prodigal son or you’re just passing through. Prove me wrong, friend.