Review Summary: Out of control...After refining their country-meets-pop sound, Zac Brown Band decided to experiment more in order to broaden their target audience. Constantly adding members to the line-up to bring several new influences to the table, they have released their most eclectic record to date, Jekyll + Hyde. The guys have showed signs of transition the moment they added rock to the mix on Uncaged and The Grohl Sessions, Vol.
Nearly three years after Uncaged, which won the Grammy for Best Country Album, the Zac Brown Band unveiled the next chapter in their crossover country revolution. Uncaged was distinguished at least in part by the participation of a variety of guests including Jimmy Buffett, Alan Jackson, Trombone Shorty, Jason Mraz, and Amos Lee. Jekyll + Hyde doesn't forgo them altogether, but it does have fewer of them.
Welcome to chameleon country. With a title like that you just know the aim is to mix things up a little. ZBB might be tagged as country, but they’re on a mission to stretch beyond the genre.. ADVERTISING
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They triangulate country bounce, classic-rock flex and jam-band wiggle like crossover wizards. Their frontman has a buttery midrange tenor, can sell the heck out of a song, and keeps his lumberjack beard nicely trimmed. With the possible exception of their relentless likability, there's nothing unlikable about the Zac Brown Band. On their fourth LP, they bang out styles with such preposterous ease — Seventies Philly soul, old-timey gospel, Celtic folk, metal, reggae, jazz — they could incorporate as a single-band music-placement agency.
When it comes to the mostly country Zac Brown Band, the headlines speak for themselves. All three of their previous studio albums have gone platinum, and they’ve sold out shows at venues like Fenway Park and the Hollywood Bowl. Dave Grohl, who produced the 2013 EP The Grohl Sessions, Vol. 1, has taken a particular liking to their signature twang, featuring them on the Nashville episode of Foo Fighters’ road trip rockumentary, Sonic Highways.
Very nearly schizophrenic in its commitment to genre hopping, Zac Brown Band's fourth album, Jekyll + Hyde, is a collection of 15 songs that have virtually no business being sequenced together. Despite Zac Brown's irrepressible corniness as a lyricist, and that the group doesn't particularly excel at most of the styles they dive into headfirst here, there's something fascinating about such a popular act having made an album that not only doesn't play it safe, but unfolds with complete and utter incongruity. Brown and company know exactly where their bread is buttered: country radio.
This album would be less infuriating if it wasn’t so competent. Don’t get me wrong—the album is terrible, with insidious politics, awkward writing, wild stylistic variations and an unsettled quality throughout, but they don’t half-ass, which kind of makes the whole thing worse. The album is called Jekyll and Hyde, so there is an expectation of that kind of variation—but that’s a binary that switches off and on.
Ever since 2008, when the Zac Brown Band made its first overtures toward the country mainstream, it has stealthily tried to remake the genre from within. Extremely facile, with tendencies somewhere between bar band and jam band, it was able to pass for conventional country on early hits like “Chicken Fried” and “Toes.” But live concerts revealed something else entirely: a formidable, flexible country-rock outfit in search of bigger stages. But as those stages became larger, the Zac Brown Band became less interesting.