A Song-By-Song Guide To Zac Brown Band's Uncaged
by Kelsey Manning | University of Notre Dame
“The Southern wind sings again another lullaby.”
And with that, the very first line of Zac Brown Band‘s new album, Uncaged, they hooked me again. The 2010 Grammy winner for Best New Artist, Zac Brown Band has been for me, and I’m sure many others, a crucial stepping stone on the path to the world of country music over the past few years. (Along with my roommates, who were more like the gatekeepers to that path. Thank you Cara and Colleen.)
But for those of you who haven’t fully hopped on the Zac Brown Bandwagon, I know you are at least familiar with “Chicken Fried,” the band’s first No. 1 hit on the Billboard country chart. Which means it topped out “Love Story” by Taylor Swift. Yeah. It was a BFD. The song also made it up to No. 20 on the Billboard Top 100, as Zac Brown Band reminded people that there’s nothing quite like a cold beer on a Friday night and a pair of jeans that fit just right.
The Georgia-based band has since notched seven more No. 1 singles on the Billboard country charts: “Toes”, “Highway 20 Ride”, “Free”, “As She’s Walking Away”, “Colder Weather”, “Knee Deep” and “Keep Me In Mind”, and two singles “Whatever It Is” and “No Hurry”, which peaked at No. 2. With the release of Uncaged, I’d be willing to bet that list is about to get a lot longer.
Uncaged, the band’s fourth album, is a bold combination of country, rock, jazz, bluegrass, R&B, reggae and soul, an eclectic mixture that somehow doesn’t seem strange in the least as you mosey along through the album. Not only has Zac Brown Band mastered the country version of the pick up and drop, they know how to put an exciting, well-timed, thoughtful album together. Billboard has already called Uncaged the best country release of the year so far, and with damn good reason. So without further ado, I present your track-by-track guide to an album you’re about to be hearing a lot more of, country fan or not.
You can listen along to the full album both legally and for free here thanks to AOL music.
1. Jump Right In: This song kicks off the album with a fun, catchy, upbeat, heart-lifting, country-bluegrass-reggae bang. I was bopping around in my seat before I noticed what was going on, and with the finesse of a gentle verse toward the end, it keeps you hooked until the last word.
Favorite lyric: “You can find me where the music meets the ocean”
2. Uncaged: And the parade of different genres begins, as the album’s title track starts out with a distinctively rock vibe. With a slower beat, this song is a head banging country song if there ever was one. The vocals on this are phenomenal as well.
Favorite lyric: “Chase that sunset highway down. You got to get uncaged.”
3. Goodbye In Her Eyes: The band slows it down with this track, a heartbreaking, tragic, tender break up story. The refrain “I saw goodbye in her eyes,” is the perfect example of Zac Brown Band’s always simple but beautifully evocative lyrics.
Favorite lyric: “I saw goodbye in her eyes, I don’t think that I can change it. There’s no way to disguise, we will never make it.”
4. The Wind: Aaand BOOM we’re back to big time honky tonk hicksville, and I love it. The band sang “The Wind” on Letterman last night; if you missed their fantastic-as-usual performance, check it out around the 40-minute mark here.
Favorite lyric: “The city lights look like a country sky, like staring at the stars turned upside down.”
5. Island Song: The appropriately named “Island Song” has a definite Jamaica/reggae feel. This is around the point in the album that you start thinking, ‘Who do these guys think they are?’ But once again, they more than pull off yet another genre.
Favorite lyric: “If you’re looking for relaxation, get away, get away with my. Make your destination my location.”
6. Sweet Annie: With flawless timing, they lay down a classic country ballad with “Sweet Annie.” Fantastic lyrics.
Favorite lyric: “Sweet Annie, can I stay with you awhile? ‘Cause this road’s been putting miles on my heart.”
7. Natural Disaster: I am 90 percent sure this is my favorite track. I mean, what gal wouldn’t want a guy to describe her as “the keeper of my soul”? “Natural Disaster” brilliantly starts out with what sounds like an organ resounding through a chapel, and becomes more up tempo as the song goes on. Just as the preacher’s daughter becomes more of a rebel. Genius. The fiddle in this song is fantastic, and about three quarters of the way through, just when you thought it couldn’t get any more exciting, the song picks up even more. Presenting: the country version of the pick up and drop.
Favorite lyric (difficult to pick because I love every flawless word): “Makes the loneliest heart wonder if the ride is worth the pain. Might not be stone clouds inside, oh but don’t you worry friend. She’s coming around the bend. She’s holding lightning in both hands.”
8. Overnight (feat. Trombone Shorty): I must admit, this one is definitely my least favorite (which really isn’t that bad considering I am borderline obsessed with every other song). It starts out sounding a little bit like vintage Backstreet Boys, and turns into a mix between R&B and something you’d hear in a jazz club. I do love the trombone though.
Favorite lyric: “First I’m gonna search your body over, I gotta make sure, You ain’t hidin nothin nowhere”
9. Lance’s Song: Another tender country ballad, “Lance’s Song” has absolutely gorgeous lyrics. Listen closely.
Favorite lyric: “Like it or not, you live on love, you try to do what’s right. We’re all here waiting for our silver invitation to our big band in the sky.”
10. Day That I Die (feat. Amos Lee): Boom. Boom. Boom. Love the opening. “Day That I Die” is the album’s second extremely personal song in a row. Like country songwriters so often do, he takes a topic that could be a little bit morbid, and makes it touching and beautiful (See: If I Die Young). As the cherry on top of a perfect song, there is an a capella harmony toward the end that I could listen to for hours on a loop.
Favorite lyric: “‘Cause I believe that I was born with a song inside of me. Never question why, I just keep on chasing that melody.” and “It’s funny how time can make you realize we’re running out of it.”
11. Last But Not Least: You guys are just too clever for your own good ain’tcha. “Last But Not Least” is calm, but not super slow. Look out for an epic verse toward the end.
Favorite lyric (I had to include the entire end of the song): “I go left when I should go right. I chase the dark when I see light. I trip and fall down every time I try to walk that line. The sun comes up I look for rain. I search for joy and I find the pain I swear I will never get again. Last but not least.
Everyone I love the most is gonna see the best of me. I put it all together when I found the missing piece. You were the last, but you’re not least.”
AOL Music will only have the album up for a week, so hop on, get hooked, and then use your parents’ iTunes password to buy the whole album. That’s not what I did or anything. And if you’re looking to see Zac Brown Band in concert this summer, you’re in luck. Check out their tour dates here. Oh, and you should probably also follow them on Twitter @zacbrownband.Kelsey Manning is an NGJ Managing Editor and a rising junior at the University of Notre Dame majoring in the Program of Liberal Studies and minoring in Italian. You can follow her on Twitter @kelseyMmanning.