It’s been a strange few years for the Zac Brown Band behind-the-scenes. They launched their own record label, signed other bands to it like Blackberry Smoke, that all dissolved for some reason, they released a strange but cool EP with Dave Grohl called The Grohl Sessions Vol. 1, had a somewhat successful single off of it called “All Allright” co-written by Zac Brown and Eric Church, and then announced an unusual three-way partnership that included Scott Borchetta’s Big Machine, Republic Records, and a label owned by menswear company John Varvatos, with an album to be tentatively released this spring.
It’s all enough to make the fan wanting to stay informed a little dizzy, but the most important thing you need to know is Zac Brown Band retains complete creative control and latitude over his music, which is why he entered this fluid environment years ago in the first place. Despite the flux, many savvy businessmen—which Zac Brown can be counted amongst with all his multiple entrepreneurial pursuits which include clothing, food, and music—see the Zac Brown Band as one of the biggest franchises in not just country music, but American music, with consistent ticket sales and solid loyalty built from years of substantive engagement through music and Zac Brown’s other pursuits.
What gives Zac Brown Band a lot more creative latitude with their music is the fact that they’re honest about not really being country. We’re all music fans first, and then our loyalties split down the lines of various genres. If only more artists were honest about their intentions, it would give us the opportunity to enjoy the music more. Zac Brown Band is a Southern rock band, which allows you to appreciate when they inflect their music with country textures, or record a straightforward country song upon occasion.
Very much like a Texas country song from someone like Wade Bowen, “Homegrown” builds up from rock and roll sensibilities, then layers on the country music elements for character, while the heart, vibe, and theme are still very much those of a country song. “Homegrown” is not the pot anthem that some will hear, though the fact that it can work in that context and will become the soundtrack for some stoners to bake away is an added bonus for those listeners. But the song is about home and hearth, and has that very warm feel you just can’t imbibe in a track with trickery.
A solid melody bolstered by a bellowing and full harmony chorus reminiscent of the Oak Ridge Boys, “Homegrown” just has a great feeling to it. The music nerd in you may be concerned that there’s not enough going on here, that the lyrics aren’t gut punching enough and the chords are too bright, rendering your assessment of the song as something fun but superfluous. But you still won’t be able to get away from the great feeling the song imparts. Almost sensing this, Zac Brown Band calls upon a fairly complex bridge near the end, employing some unusual chord structures that add a little pepper and topography to the track, almost like a holdover from their progressively-structured music from The Grohl Sessions EP.
“Homegrown” won’t mint Zac Brown Band any awards, but it’s a really solid track, savvy as a first single from a new album by being accessible, slightly adventurous, and pleasantly familiar, making you anticipate what else they may have baking in the oven.
I like it.
1 1/2 of 2 Guns Up.
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“Home Grown” was the original name of Zac Browns record label. It was eventually changed to Southern Ground for legal reasons.