I’m still not 100% sold on 2010 Best New Artist Grammy winners Zac Brown Band as an actual country band. Their particular aesthetic, which they further refine on their latest album, You Get What You Give, splits the already marginal difference between Jimmy Buffett’s beachcomber grooves and The Mellow Show frat rock. When they attempt to make more traditional country concessions, as on their breakthrough hit “Chicken Fried” or on this album’s truck-stop ballad “Colder Weather,” the results come across as somewhat strident and inorganic.
The Zac Brown Band's first major-label release, 2008’s The Foundation, put this hard-working touring band over the top, generating five hit singles, including the instant classic singalong “Chicken Fried,” and this follow-up album will get a lot of attention and airplay on country stations. Is there another “Chicken Fried” here? Not really, but You Get What You Give is a better and more consistent album than The Foundation, thanks to Brown’s solid songwriting and singing and the rest of the bandmembers' ability to sound country even when they venture deep into Southern rock territory, tackle a little bluegrass, or veer into a jam band reggae direction -- think George Strait crossed with the Allman Brothers Band crossed with Jimmy Buffett (who actually guests here on "Knee Deep") crossed with the Dave Matthews Band. This is a band built for flexibility at live shows and for stretching numbers out, but thanks to Brown's easy, natural honky tonk singing and sharp songwriting, ZBB also deliver confidently in the tighter restraints of a studio setting.
ZBB’s sophomore effort You Get What You Give doesn’t stray far from their platinum-?selling blend of country-frat jams and oceanfront jangles; Jimmy Buffett even guests. The musicianship is impeccable, but the lyrics too often pander to a certain good-time demographic for whom lines like ”La la la la?let it go” might rate as deep. While no one wants an existential crisis at the beach barbecue, these guys really shine when they ditch the polish in favor of some bite.