Zac Brown Band recently released its sixth studio album, Jekyll + Hyde, shooting up the Billboard album charts to Number 1 for the third time. Taking its signature, laid back, groovy sound and blending it with a variety of distinct approaches to delivery, the Zac Brown Band’s offering perfectly envelops the “Jekyll and Hyde” mentality.
The album was introduced to country fans by the lead single “Homegrown,” a song that grew to find a home at the top of the Country Airplay chart, even before the release of the band’s project. While the first single from a record generally sets the tone for what fans can expect from the remainder of the tracks, that simply was not possible on Zac Brown Band’s Jekyll + Hyde. This is because the album is akin to putting your very versatile iPod on shuffle and embracing the frame of mind to “expect the unexpected.”
Jekyll + Hyde proves to be a perfect title for the disc, symbolizing the constant ebb and flow of the tracks that construct the project. While a vast majority of the songs utilize the islandish sound that the Zac Brown Band has long been known for, each does so in a unique way, ensuring that no two tracks are remotely similar.
Beginning with the psychedelic “Beautiful Drug,” which feels appropriately colorful, and bookending with the acoustic version of a folk and blues tune, “Tomorrow Never Comes,” Jekyll + Hyde slides across all genres of music, challenging listeners to pinpoint exact placements for each song under some musical classification. Words like tropical, gospel, big band, hard rock, classical, Mariachi, blues, jazz, jungle, “thrash” rock, and progressive come to mind as one track ends and the next begins.
Undeniable standouts on the album include Zac Brown Band’s duets with Sara Bareilles (“Mango Tree”) and Chris Cornell (“Heavy Is the Hand”), as well as the Jason Isbell cover “Dress Blues.” With back-to-back appearances on the album, Bareilles and Cornell lend their sensationally different vocals to the country band’s uncommon offering, providing seven minutes and forty-one seconds of masterminded musical manipulation. From a swing-dance song laden with pure vocals that chill listeners to the core to a hard rock, yet likewise chilling, sound that only the lead singer from Soundgarden and Audioslave can contribute, the fifth and sixth cuts on the album fluctuate like a pendulum, making it forgettable that the Zac Brown Band is widely considered a country group.
“Dress Blues” is particularly significant, as it pays homage to the serving and falling of a United States soldier. Though a remake of an Isbell song, the intensely layered harmonies, intricate instruments, and violin rendition of TAPS in the bridge make it a gut-wrenching highlight, as it will stop listeners in their tracks to salute the troops.
With the release of Jekyll + Hyde, the Zac Brown Band takes fans on a journey, flexing its musical muscles and showing its ability to change its masks frequently and successfully. Fans who are self-proclaimed music lovers will place Zac Brown Band’s latest offering atop their lists of favorite albums immediately, as it leaves no territory unchartered and no category uncovered.
A true melting pot of genres and influences, the unprecedented album serves as an invitation to other artists who may feel pigeonholed to spread their wings and broaden their musical horizons. At the end of the day, the musicians we all love and admire are commonly referred to as “artists,” and shouldn’t artists be provided with unfettered freedom of creative expression?