Review Summary: The best Zac Brown Band release yet...
In my mind, the Zac Brown Band is one of the few bands that are classified into the country genre that don't belong there. Their sound is simply too broad to be easily considered country. They draw from a diverse range of influences including soul/funk, blues, folk, bluegrass/country and rock that they blend into a cohesive sound. They are one of my favorite groups simply because they are damn talented musicians. And on their newest EP, The Grohl Sessions, Vol. I the musicianship is better than ever.
Yes, the Grohl in the EP name refers to one Mr. Dave Grohl, who produced this record and contributed drums to the song "Let It Rain". band leader Zac Brown approached Grohl about producing some new music during a Grammys after-party, and Grohl agreed to do so, despite never having heard a single Zac Brown Band song. The EP was recorded live to tape over a week-long session in Nashville.
Opening track "All Alright" is a classic Zac Brown Band track, with a breezy Allman Brothers-style guitar line combining with a classic organ line and Zac's robust vocals leading into a gorgeous chorus. As usual, "All Alright" has several instances of four-part harmonies, and even features a killer slide-guitar solo from AJ Ghent. For anyone who's new to the music of Zac Brown Band, "All Alright" is the most straight-forward song here, and a great introduction to their music.
"Let It Rain" is a mid-tempo loose jam, with the aforementioned presence of Dave Grohl on drums. His style fits really well here, as he actually holds back a bit. The chorus is soaring, as those harmonies come to bear in spades. The multi-voice harmonies are one of the signatures of Zac Brown Band, and it lifts these songs above standard country fare. There is an absolutely killer part in "Let It Rain" where fiddle player Jimmy De Martini solos his ass off as Grohl almost duels him on drums.
"The Muse" is actually a cover of a song by The Wood Brothers. Whereas the original is much folkier and subdued, the ZBB version is rock-infused. The evocative lyrics about love carry the track into each chorus. The song has an almost "Hallejuah" feel to it lyrically in terms of the spiritual power of unconditional love. The song gets very quiet towards the end as Zac softy croons about the birth of a child. "The Muse" feels uplifting.
"Day For The Dead" is the best song on here, and is unlike anything Zac Brown Band has ever done. The song has a kitchen-sink feel to it, as it includes a four-part vocal verse, a beatbox section, and an absolute furious ending. The song was introduced to the world on an awards show with Grohl playing drums alongside ZBB, and it is easy for one to believe that Grohl is playing drums on the studio version as well. The second half is a jam-band lover's dream, as drummer Chris Fryar goes nuts and the tempo picks up considerably into some sort of country stoner-rock jam. The lyrics about the dead coming back from the grave are kinda goofy, but also add to the fun element of the song.
Overall, The Grohl Sessions, Vol. I is a great EP from Zac Brown Band, and is the best release so far. Dave Grohl's production is great, as the sound is clear with tons of warm & rich tones. For those who love country with a genre-hopping edge, Zac Brown Band is the band for you, and The Grohl Sessions, Vol. I is a great place to start with their music. Here's hoping there's more volumes to The Grohl Sessions.