Review Summary: Comfort music
When taken at face value, there are two kinds of country music: feel good country and depressing country. Depressing country is rarely heard on top 40 channels because the only thing worse than country music is country music that makes people sad. Sometimes, though, a feel good country song finds its way onto the play lists and everyone suddenly loves the country song. This is the case of Zac Brown Band’s “Chicken Fried” and later, “Toes.” The success of these singles made The Foundation a double platinum album and earned them a Best New Artist Grammy despite having zero defining features to their music.
The Foundation is a showcase of evident instrumental talent and bland songwriting. Zac Brown is a gifted guitarist that works the scales as well as anyone and Jimmy De Martini’s violin is showcased on several tracks. They’re supported by drummer Chris Fryar, who brings an interesting jazz influence to the music. The drumming is the only element that sets Zac Brown Band’s sound apart from the rest of the country genre. However, the talent is lost in the dull mush of songs. Brown’s vocals have very little range, which gives his musicians very little room to operate. The result is songs that all sound very similar excepting the singles, which have catchy hooks that people will recognize when heard on the radio. The singles are the highlights of the album because it allows the Band to switch gears.
This album is still enjoyable simply because the feel good country music formula is one that is proven to succeed. Brown, who began performing in his teens, is so well acquainted with the winning formula that he rarely allows himself to venture out of it. The phrase “sometimes the road less traveled is less traveled for a reason' comes to mind when describing the songs- they work so well because there isn’t any experimentation. By making a ’safe’ album, Brown stays comfortable by writing songs that he knows are good, and is willing to sacrifice potential for flair. The Foundation is just that: a great starting point with room for growth.
Recommended Tracks: Where the Boat Leaves From, Chicken Fried, Free