Album Review – Zach Bryan’s “American Heartbreak”
Welcome ladies and gentlemen to an entirely new era in the effort to upstage the powers that be in country music, and return the control back to the artists and fans, while simultaneously returning the soul and heart back to the songs. It was a charge first taken up by the Outlaws in the 70s, reignited by Hank Williams III and independent labels like Bloodshot Records in the 90’s, championed later by Sturgill Simpson, then brought to an entirely new level by artists like Cody Jinks, Tyler Childers, and others.
But now it’s a “viral songwriter”—a new designation we’ve had to add to the lexicon—that has gone from messing around in an AirBNB recording amateur songs with his friends, to a guy that has perhaps on the precipice of becoming one of the hottest names in popular music with his new 34-song album American Heartbreak.
34 songs? Hell, why not. Stroke your chin and espouse all the conventional wisdom about music that you want, including what a boner Zach Bryan is pulling here with this hard drive dump of an album that doesn’t even include any vinyl copies, and doesn’t even seem to have a publicist or any media push behind it. Then sit back and watch as the thing racks up an insane amount of metadata through Zach Bryan’s extremely engaged fan base, and challenges for the very top spots on the charts once all those streams are counted. It’s already set the single day streaming record for a country album on both Spotify and Apple Music.
Meanwhile, if/when you see Zach Bryan out there in the wild, his fans will be singing every.single.word of every one of these 34 songs right there with him, and verbatim, along with all the other songs Zach Bryan has released over the last four years. For his voracious fans, the 34 songs of American Heartbreak were too long in coming, and still not enough. He could drop another 34-song album tomorrow and they would still be here for it. This is the Americana version of Beatlemania.
But how about the actual songs of American Heartbreak. Are they any good? Is it even worth diving into? Where in the hell does one even start? Just to ingest this thing in one sitting, you risk estranging yourself from your children, having to pony for a divorce lawyer, or flunking out of the spring semester from the time commitment it requires.
Of course there are some rushed, under-produced, poorly recorded and constructed tracks on this album that were taken out of the oven half baked. That’s just what you’re going to get from Zach Bryan. It’s actually not unusual for an artist to write and/or record 34 songs or more in the run up to an album release. It’s pretty common in fact. It’s just Zach Bryan didn’t parse anything down at the end, or cut out the things that weren’t finished. These are his children, and he couldn’t fathom parting with any of them. And so he just released them all.
But there’s also many songs here that are pretty damn excellent, whether from a songwriting, musical, or even production standpoint. Maybe you have to dig to find the ones that will appeal to you, and demonstrate some patience; that is, if you’re not wrapped up in Zach Bryan mania, and all of this stuff sounds like musical manna to you. But some more distinguishing listeners may need a Sherpa. Lucky, you happen to know one.
As for the “best” tracks on the album, of course this is an arbitrary judgement call based significantly on individual taste. But judging primarily on songwriting—since Zach Bryan is primarily a songwriter—the tracks this set of ears would put the most emphasis upon would be “Something in the Orange,” “Sun To Me,” “Billy Stay,” and “Half Grown.”
“Something in the Orange” is the song that has already set the country music world on fire. It’s currently the #3 streaming song in all of country music, and has Zach Bryan as the #1 ranked songwriter in all of country for the third straight week when its coupled with another early release from the record, “From Austin.” This is according to Billboard.
But if you’ve been sitting back, munching on a bowl of Orville Redenbacher, watching this whole Zach Bryan thing pop off, and wondering what the hell is really behind it all, the one song from American Heartbreak I would advise you consider is track #29, “Half Grown.” It really exemplifies the way Zach Bryan’s writing distinguishes itself from other contributors in how the verses all interplay with each other, how he takes a few simple ideas and phrases, and makes them evolve and fold on top of each other until he’s describing an indescribable experience of the human condition.
Despite what Zach Bryan’s critics will implore you to believe, this is not all smoke and mirrors. The way Zach Bryan has connected with his audience of mostly younger adults estranged from today’s conventional country music is by giving words to their most infernal fears, anxieties, and euphoric exhalations. Zach Bryan just knows how to express what he’s feeling in a lossless manner, and what we all feel (or have felt) in ways even the most illustrative of songwriters generally struggle to.
“Billy Stay” shows another dimension of elevated songwriting from Zach Bryan, taking on a rather overdone topic of aging and Alzheimer’s, which is such an easy avenue to tugging on heart strings. But Zach knows how to avoid all the clichés, while swelling the emotion and emphasis at the right times to emphatically sell your mind and heart on the story. At their best, Zach Bryan’s songs are explosions of feeling that are hard to not capture on the mic, no matter the setting or setup. That’s how he can arrest an audience with a video taken taken on a busted iPhone with wind in the mic, and in low light. None of that matters. The sincerity and emotional potency translates. That’s how we got here.
Even on some of Zach Bryan’s more average tracks, there is still almost always a line or two that feels damn near like parable, or perhaps Shakespearean in it’s poetic potency, making the entire song seem that much more vital. Take “The Outskirts”—a perfectly fine song, partaking in nostalgia in a well-written manner, and well complimented by a light approach to the instrumentation. It would be a fine song on its own, but the simple line “Your smile outdoes the dawn” just takes it to another level. It’s these kinds of incisive lines that some songwriters take years to discover, and that Zach seems to pick out of the air as easy as breath that has resulted in his inexplicable “viral” appeal. His fans pick up on all of these such lines. His critics miss them entirely. This is one of the many reasons for the gulf running through his appeal.
Of course, Zach Bryan is best described as a country-oriented singer/songwriter, but as a singer and songwriter above all else. But American Heartbreak also finds Zach taking a few stabs at straight up country songs. The first comes early on with “Heavy Eyes,” which is right up there with “Half Grown” as one of the best tracks on the record. Combining Zach’s writing skills with some pretty excellent takeoff country guitar, it’s hard to not fall for this track, even if you count yourself among the Zach Bryan detractors.
Another distinctly country track is “Whiskey Fever,” which is sort of Zach’s crack at writing a wild-eyed 70s country song. Piggy backing off of “Whiskey River,” it’s one of those Zach Bryan tracks whose lyrics could have used another revision or two. It’s pretty fun, but probably only good for a few listens before you move on to the more meatier tracks of the album. “If She Wants a Cowboy” is probably a bit better written and delivered, but again is done a bit tongue-in-cheek, complete with leaning on Auto-tune at the end to supposedly appeal to country radio. It’s a hoot for sure, but these later two country songs make for the comic relief of the album as opposed to the emotional anchors.
Reportedly recorded in three different primary settings—with probably some homespun last minute tracks thrown in there as well—the majority of the songs of American Heartbreak render as Heartland rock. Eddie Spear is given the lion’s share of producer credits, with Ryan Hadlock, and Louie Nice in there as well. The writing is earnest, the music is mostly rootsy, and the songs are about being lost and found all at the same time. Zach Bryan is still a young man, and knows about little more than experiencing life, and then embedding it into song.
There are multiple reasons the mere mention of Zach Bryan’s will also result in bile and spite from a small, but loud few, and one of those reasons is age discrepancy. At 26, Zach Bryan is a Millennial, just barely qualifying above Gen Z, making his way in a movement in music full of 30 and 40-somethings who first got into this stuff from Shooter, Hank3, Sturgill, or Cross Canadian Ragweed, and 50-somethings who trace it back further to Ryan Adams and Reckless Kelly. Who is this damn kid hopscotching everyone, headlining their favorite festivals, releasing 34-song albums, and not giving a shit about the presentation? And why do all of his fans look like they’re still in college?
Along with the generational gap, as has been said before, there’s nothing more injurious to an independent artist than success. First, Zach Bryan was a Tyler Childers knockoff. Now, he’s some sort of machination orchestrated by Music Row. Pop country. Forget that these two things don’t jive with each other, it also doesn’t jive with Zach Bryan’s music. It also doesn’t take into account that whomever is working at Warner is asleep at the wheel when it comes to this release. They have no idea what to do with this album either, and so they’re doing nothing.
It won’t matter though, because Zach Bryan’s fans do know what to do. American Heartbreak will still pop off, and present a new paradigm in independent country music, and in music in general, and anoint Zach Bryan as another country music revolutionary.
We can’t judge any of this in the present tense. It’s too fresh, too unusual, there are too many songs to ingest, and the moments are too emotional. Unquestionably though, discounting or casting off Zach Bryan and the phenomenon surrounding him as some some sort of illusion, something insincere, or something not destined to stick in the long-term has already proven to be folly. It is very much real and reverberative, and all that any of us can do is wait to see how this all evolves. What we do know is that it’s going to be big. And probably, very big.
1 3/4 Guns Up (8.3/10)
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Thom’s Country Bunker
May 23, 2022 @ 9:12 am
Man, people LOVE this dude. I seen him live a couple times over the last twelve months or so and yeah, his fans are totally devoted so they’re gonna LOVE this!
May 23, 2022 @ 9:22 am
This is a tough album for a listener like me to approach and digest. I’ve listened to the first third of the album 3 times, and there are some excellent songs. “Right Now the Best,” being my favorite at the moment. It will probably take me a couple months to fully process this album. His style can hit in such a way that it challenging for me to listen to more than about 10 songs in a row without needing to listen to something else. For me, DeAnn was a perfect album lengthwise for this type of music.
Anyway, this is quite the effort, and impressive that he can kick out so many quality songs in such a short time.
May 23, 2022 @ 9:23 am
Looking forward to giving this one a listen.
May 23, 2022 @ 9:36 am
This album confuses me.
May 24, 2022 @ 10:39 am
: D Mr. Conrad Fisher!
Love one of your newer songs out –
This is Excellent.
May 23, 2022 @ 9:41 am
The good songs are really good. The lesser songs are still mostly fine, if not forgettable. Kids love him and he’s going to be (already is) huge. I’m still working through it a few songs at a time, but my biggest complaint is that he rhymes Oklahoma City with “fiddy” (fifty) and it irks me to the core.
May 23, 2022 @ 9:50 am
I think it’s “Wrong side of pity”.
May 23, 2022 @ 11:38 am
Ahhh, thanks. I wash washing dishes when that song came on so I wasn’t too engaged with the lyrics lol
May 23, 2022 @ 9:42 am
I’m a fan but he can be a little too one-note for me. Throwing 34 songs in a row at that problem doesn’t solve it for me but I’ll keep coming back to probably 5 songs from the album.
May 23, 2022 @ 12:54 pm
I love Zach Bryan and I think he is a phenomenal songwriter… but I completely agree that after even just a few tracks they started to blend together completely. 34 songs (to me) is just way too many. I don’t need that much music from anyone at once…
Neil Young’s Potatoes
May 23, 2022 @ 9:43 am
Perhaps one could cull this into a regular length album that excludes the songs that sound like he recorded them on his iPhone or when he forgot to tune his guitar. The opener “Late July” being an example – the guitar is out of tune from the first chord he plays. That doesn’t make it cool or homespun, it makes it amateurish and unlistenable. The songs with other musicians playing (those who know how to work a Snark guitar tuner) are much better on balance.
That said, Zach has some real potential. We’ll see how long it takes him to turn into a woke fundamentalist Twitter warrior like some of his predecessors. Let’s hope he doesn’t.
May 25, 2022 @ 11:09 am
From some of the things he’s tweeted, I don’t think he will. Regardless, he’s served his time for our country, so I think he’s earned the right to say pretty much whatever he wants
June 7, 2022 @ 10:15 pm
What a ridiculous take. Always finding a way to bring politics into something. You’re insufferable.
May 23, 2022 @ 9:44 am
Great review as usual Trigger.
“Even on some of Zach Bryan’s more average tracks, there is still almost always a line or two that feels damn near like parable, or perhaps Shakespearean in it’s poetic potency, making the entire song seem that much more vital.”
This is spot on. He just pulls me in. I’m in the age group (24) that you’re referring to. Even some of my friends who don’t often listen to this umbrella of music can’t get enough of Zach right now.
May 23, 2022 @ 9:44 am
May 24, 2022 @ 8:15 am
Not as much as the latest Jeremy Pinnell album does
May 23, 2022 @ 9:52 am
“Your smile outdoes the dawn” … ?
Yeah, uh – no.
Bro country at its best.
May 23, 2022 @ 1:24 pm
Yeah, that is something a modern Nashville songwriter would write. It is not a bad lyric but it is nothing exceptional.
Luke Bryan Burner
May 23, 2022 @ 1:41 pm
Since boyfriend country is already taken, can we call Zach Bryan ex-boyfriend country?
May 23, 2022 @ 4:40 pm
Not sure that’s much different that anything Conway Twitty made a career on.
May 23, 2022 @ 5:21 pm
That line was pulled from a song as an example of how Zach Bryan delivers one liners that really cut at the heart of listeners, and has resulted in the extremely swelling and loyal fanbase Zach Bryan has created without help from radio or the press that is very likely to result in a #1 record. To understand the context fully, you have to listen to the song, and understand how that line was presented in the review. Pulling it out and analyzing it autonomously as “Bro-Country” or anything else is not how the line was presented, either by Zach Bryan, or myself.
May 23, 2022 @ 5:15 pm
Yeah, whenever anyone declares or compares Zach Bryan to “Bro-Country” or “Boyfriend Country,” I can’t express how beclowning that is. You’re just so beyond horrifically uninformed, it’s almost insulting to speak. Whatever this is, it’s not Bro-Country. The line I singled out is not Bro-Country. This is the absolute antithesis of Bro-Country, full stop.
May 23, 2022 @ 8:50 pm
You Ok there, Sherpa?
May 24, 2022 @ 1:09 pm
Triggers sounding triggered… it’s like Tyler Mahan Coe thing again… have a cup of tea Trig and calm down…
May 23, 2022 @ 10:22 pm
“You’re just so beyond horrifically uninformed..” 🙄
Dude, you take yourself and your opinion far too seriously.
May 27, 2022 @ 9:01 am
Zach Bryan is good and is getting average music listeners into a completely better, different umbrella of music.
May 24, 2022 @ 6:23 am
“so beyond horrifically uninformed” is a phrase i wish you would throw out more to combat some of the more dangerous theories and stances made and taken in the comments section of this site. but i guess this is ok to throw down on too.
May 23, 2022 @ 9:54 am
I can’t fathom how Zach has any critics of his songwriting when every other song on the radio is some bearded metrosexual incongruently name-dropping 90’s country.
May 23, 2022 @ 1:27 pm
Because he is being hoisted on the pedestal as the best young writer out there. His peers aren’t the typical hack Nashville writer but the elite of the genre. So folks are going to be more critical when his fans push him as the best.
Cool Lester Smooth
May 23, 2022 @ 4:15 pm
Of course…the people he’s being held up against are also 10 years older than him, and have been exclusively focused on music for a hell of a lot longer.
May 23, 2022 @ 5:24 pm
Well yeah that is the bugaboo. Both sides are doing him a disservice. I wouldn’t say he is my favorite cup of tea but “Crooked Teeth” is a jam. I am looking forward to checking out this album. 34 songs is a lot but hey I am a fan of the decision. More to choose from. And it is basically what all the legends did back in the day by putting out three albums in a year.
Cool Lester Smooth
May 24, 2022 @ 1:50 am
I say this a bunch, but I’ve always felt the operative comparison is “Oklahoma William Clark Green,” more than any of the loftier comparisons that get thrown about.
And, as any regular knows, I fucking love Will. I’ve seen him live four or five times and I know every word to just about every song on Rose Queen and Ringling Road.
The difference with Zach is that he always tries to throw in a John Moreland-esque lyrical haymaker with the big pop hook and campfire-style instrumentation.
May 24, 2022 @ 6:12 am
That is a good comparison. I do enjoy some WCG. The latest album was a bit lacking, though.
I just think that fans do a young singer a disservice by immediately comparing him to the best around. It invites extra scrutiny from new listeners that wouldn’t normally exist.
Of course, I find most comparisons to be surface level at best.
Regardless, he is impacting fans at an emotional level. Even if someone doesn’t like his material, the impact can’t be denied.
May 24, 2022 @ 7:31 am
Zach Bryan is a paradox. A clean cut Veteran who’s songs are pretty a-political is shooting to the top of Americana roots ladder, a genre dominated by hipsters and hippies who see everything through a political eye. Everyone from the hippies to the rednecks, and the hipsters to the country traditionalists are looking around and wondering what the hell is going on here? Like him or not, Zach seems to be changing the rules.
May 24, 2022 @ 8:16 am
I love that fact! Im personally tired of “woke” country being shoved down my throat. Its just straight up good country music. References God a bunch of times, and the final poem is clearly a gorgeous reference to heaven, but red and blue states and all that nonsense is nowhere to be found on this thing. Its lovely. Im personally not into Americana for that specific reason you mentioned, its overtly “woke” and tells me my political views are wrong, so its not really a genre I care to spend time on. Im more of a traditional, check list, type country boy, but also and this is American Heartbreak’s major plus, among many, is that it doesnt reference current society and the problems we are facing. Thats a welcome breath of fresh air. And if he does reference it like on Damn Cold Vampires, about his anger at a high cell phone bill, he uses metaphor in a way to universalize it to allow us to identify with it, whether we dislike our cell phone carrier or not. Ive never really understood the impetus for Americana to be so overtly political. Why alienate half the population and thus potential income? As you point out, Ive seen posts on the gram from folks clearly on the right side of the aisle attending his shows, and then if you check out the profiles and posts of folks on twitter who are loving this album, some are clearly on the left side of the aisle. Thats incredible, in this time of divisiveness to have folks come together to enjoy this special album, and make no mistake it is special. He’s clearly a patriot, American flag out in press shots for the album, but its not ra ra type bombast that could turn folks off. And he’s got the tunes and writing chops to back it up. He’s special.
May 24, 2022 @ 9:22 am
Like you, my political views range right of most Americana musicians, but I still find I enjoy a lot of it. Excluding the ones who just blatantly get on their soapbox to bash you over the head. I would say I like Bryan more than love his music, but he certainly is breaking barriers.
May 23, 2022 @ 10:10 am
Can’t deny his talent, but I’m not really into it. It’s probably my own fault, once I hit my 30s and started a family I left all that angsty, introspective, and existential thinking behind me; I’m not denying that stuff exists but my view of the world is much simpler now. Another part of it is his fans, same thing with TC’s fans, they’ve ruined it for me. Flame on.
May 23, 2022 @ 1:33 pm
Not going to flame you but, curious what you listen to outside of dad rock.
I get the fans issue, and with TC and many others, but if that really changes your own personal enjoyment of the music, perhaps you were looking for something other than the actual music in the first place?
May 23, 2022 @ 1:54 pm
Lol fair enough but I wouldn’t consider anything I listen to as dad rock. Turnpike, Jason Boland, Cody Morrow, Jason Eady, etc, that’s the stuff that been in my rotation for a long time. Honestly though I’m a bluegrasser first, it’s funny because a lot of the eternal themes that Zach Bryan speaks to are in these succinct bluegrass lyrical motifs, just without the edginess I guess. I don’t mean to pile on Zach Bryan by any means, he’s tapped into the human condition in a very relatable way and that’s hard to do. Charles Wesley Godwin does this well too and I much prefer his music because of the way he pulls it off versus ZB, they’re just two different styles of writing and delivery. As far as the whole fan thing, I’m not sure I follow what you’re getting at about not in it for the music, but I always think of the the moment at a Sturgill concert where he stopped the show and called out a fight, while the dudes were being hauled out he said something to the effect of “when are you guys going to figure out I’m not like you”.
May 23, 2022 @ 2:50 pm
Nice list. If I was as pretentious as Sturgill I might say Turnpike fans have become pretty iffy lately. Won’t change what I think of their music though.
May 23, 2022 @ 3:42 pm
I saw Turnpike last weekend at Red Rocks and it was awesome. Hard to say how the “super fans” were since so many locals go to weekend shows regardless of who’s playing.
May 23, 2022 @ 10:35 am
Superficial listen though only….but sounds badass.
May 23, 2022 @ 10:52 am
I saw him live last June and it was so awful we had to leave. The folks singing along was cool and he was good but his backing band was god awful and ruined the whole experience.
First two records and eps were spot on.
This record is good but could’ve used some quality control, some of those songs should’ve been saved for a b-sides record. Some of bangers and will be classics soon enough.
May 23, 2022 @ 10:53 am
Also good review trig!
John R Baker
May 23, 2022 @ 10:59 am
Good review Trigger. I’ve been listening to this album obsessively all weekend and I am one of those Gen Xers though I was more of a bluegrass head and old folky. But I crave new things and can tell top talent when I hear it. To me the viral nature of his success I think demonstrates that this is a paradigm shift and he’s on top of it. Luke Combs did this to but ended up kicking into the traditional route once he got well known. Zach is going totally modern.
The music historian in me thinks there is a lot of symmetry in him coming from just 90 miles north of Woody Guthrie’s hometown. (I know some idiot is going to have to utterly miss the point here and say “derp, COMMUNIST!”) Zach seems like a pretty conservative guy but his way of expressing himself, musical style, and artistic values trace straight back to Woody through the Isbells, Springsteen’ etc. in the post Dyan singer-songwriter style. Like Woody he’s an authentic figure and an enthusiastically prolific writer who is very much in touch with the zeitgeist of his times and writing for what his art says to the average people who live in them rather than the suits. And he’s also able to flout convention.
As an old fart folky I think what Zach’s “hard drive dump of an album” as you say is the epitome of folk music because it’s not about crafting the perfect song or album. It’s all about the expression in the moment and to paraphrase Zach “keeping truth in song.”
May 23, 2022 @ 1:49 pm
“The music historian in me thinks there is a lot of symmetry in him coming from just 90 miles north of Woody Guthrie’s hometown.”
What a load of 🐎 ****.
“(I know some idiot is going to have to utterly miss the point here and say “derp, COMMUNIST!”)”
No one but you is bringing up “derp, COMMUNIST!”
Haven’t heard this much 🐎 shit, in one explanation, since leaving UVM.
Thanks man, still smiling.
Have a Great rest of your day
May 23, 2022 @ 2:37 pm
Di, you need to calm down.
May 23, 2022 @ 2:48 pm
: D Am very calm.
Laughter & love making are the best medicine
& headed to an early week bonfire
(not one of the molotov cocktail, variety)
May 23, 2022 @ 11:00 pm
He is from Oologah, Oklahoma, the hometown of Will Rogers.
May 24, 2022 @ 9:54 am
Definitely agree with alot of this. I certainly respect Woody for his contribution, although disagree heavily with his politics. But yeah, him touring with Luke right now isnt a coincidence, the rise of Luke obviously dovetails nicely with whats happening with Zach. The funny thing though is his fans have been repping him since 2019. I got into him because of Grady hyping him up and falling in love with DeAnn. The difference now though is those fans are getting attention or rather the music is getting attention, whereas in 2019, Zach was beloved by the fans in the know. His fans have always been as rabid, and I am one of them. People were hyping DeAnn just as hard. I think you are right this is a paradigm shift. Just as Bootleggers were responsible for Luke, Zach’s fanbase is the one driving this. Radio and labels really have no major role in Zach’s rise. Fans hanging on every single word isnt because they hear it every hour on the hour on the local country station. Its because they have DEMANDED streaming services pay attention to him. This is a special dude. He is unique and one of a kind. Certainly we all can hear Dylan, Springsteen and others in his music, but its undeniably Zach. I dont think I am the only person streaming this nonstop for the last 5 days. Big name country artists dont even necessarily get that passion thats occurring right now. I dont know what happens next, or where Zach sits on the charts in a year, but I think its not mind reading to suggest this is the rise of a superstar in the making. And as you point out, Zach’s own politics dont figure into his music, which also is likely why he is connecting. An overtly red or blue Zach wouldn’t hit. Not like this. You are likely to see some 45 and 46 hats at his shows, all enjoying the tunes, oddly enough arm in arm for a couple hours. That in itself is incredible and a true feat.
October 13, 2022 @ 7:12 pm
You’re right, you know. Grady Smith has been covering this from the beginning, and it is a whole phenomena in and of itself, simply because nothing quite like it has been done before. And for a country artist to be this big with virtually no radio play is absolutely crazy. Dis platforms like TikTok all you want, but they’re promoting fresh new acts in ways that have never been done before.
May 23, 2022 @ 11:11 am
Reading the comments and reviews reminds me of the first time I heard Willie Nelson’s Red Headed Stranger. First listen – What is this? Didn’t like it. Well let’s listen to it again.
Second Listen – Ok this is pretty good. I see what they’re talking about.
Third Listen – Holy Django Reinherdt! this is amazing. And then I played it again and again and again forever.
I’m on the second or third try with this and I gave up on the two previous Zach Bryan albums. But, but but, From Austin is really good. There’s a line in there that struck me, in much the same way a line in Red Headed Stranger got me.
Here’s the Red Headed Stranger line:
The yellow-haired lady was buried at sunset
The stranger went free, of course
For you can’t hang a man for killin’ a woman
Who’s tryin’ to steal your horse
And the Zach Bryan line:
There’s concrete below me and a sky above so blue
People ruin people, I don’t wanna ruin you
People ruin people, I don’t wanna ruin you —- Mannnn there won’t be a better line in a country song this year. Mark it down. I’m still listening to this. The critics are right it does all blend together too much, it is probably too much music at once, but a lot of it is just next level amazing.
May 23, 2022 @ 12:36 pm
Like I said in the review, Zach Bryan pushes out lines like this so effortlessly. Sometimes isolated they don’t punch the same as when you happen upon one in a song. But it’s lines like these that have earned him the loyal and swelling fan base he enjoys.
May 23, 2022 @ 6:21 pm
I forgot to mention your review was great Trigger. Planning to go back and just listen to the ones you. Singled out.
May 23, 2022 @ 11:15 am
I am by no means a super fan. And am also not a huge fan of really long records. That said, there isn’t a bad track on this thing (well, I could pass on “You are my sunshine”). Like any record, some is better than others. Nothing feels under-baked on throw-away to me. Kind of amazing one dude can come up with all this stuff. It will take quite some time to digest it all though (probably would have been nice to split this into 3 records, released over a year to allow you to more easily digest it).
May 23, 2022 @ 11:35 am
My personal method is write 50 songs I think are really good, cut it down to 11 add a couple cover songs that are not well known, play the shit out of the songs with a band, record live in studio in 3 days no over dubs. I’m at the play with band stage. Everyone has their own method and I think he was probably smart to feed his fanbase and not worry about making a classic album. I think you hit the nail on the head with singer-songwriter, which is how I have viewed this guy. He is from OK so that will influence his sound for sure but I’m not holding my breath for him to write a yodeling train song. Be sure to cover that if he does because I will be very interested!
May 23, 2022 @ 11:36 am
He’s the Springsteen to Childers’ Dylan. Both prolific poets with real drive and incredibly good at what they do. One hams it up a bit more and finds real crossover mainstream appeal, one sticks more to the elusive artist identity. You can find critics of both who appreciate the qualities their preferred favorite brings to the table. Personally the more stripped down stuff is usually not my favorite era for a budding songwriter, but I know I’m in the minority there and he’s tracking right where he should be for the level of talent. Looking forward to further refinement and when he busts out with some heavier production over a full album and leans more into the hooks a la Heavy Eyes.
May 23, 2022 @ 4:28 pm
Springsteen and Dylan? Come on now, I don’t think either has done enough to warrant that kind of comparison, Especially Zach Bryan.
May 23, 2022 @ 6:57 pm
Even Springsteen and Dylan started somewhere;)
May 24, 2022 @ 9:00 am
While I agree, anyone who is aware ‘the next Dylan” has been around literally since Dylan arrived on the scene. That said, if you pay attention, comparisons to Dylan and Springsteen have been popping up in press for Zach for awhile, especially in the last week, as a result of AH. Trigger brought up Chris Stapleton in a discussion about legendary albums of our generation, and I totally agree. And much like Zach, Chris’s initial momentum was entirely word of mouth and grassroots, before Traveller was even released. “Did you hear this bearded guy with that voice and insane guitar skills last night in LA?” was the frequent statement for years. Crowning Zach as heir to Dylan or Springsteen is way premature, but as the review and as his fans have been saying for years, he is special. Trigger spent much of the review scratching his head trying to come up with why Zach is connecting in a way few artists ever do. This is populist country music in action. Its not hype, not a record exec scheming, not some push to get agenda driven quotas and whatnot on the radio. Its passionate fans who hang on every word this dude sings and who will tout the music like its a Bible verse. You can be a stick in the mud or you can join the fun. This is literally what this site is about. Its honest, true, authentic country music, entirely grassroots and organic in nature. I dont understand alot of pop music. I do understand Zach.
John R Baker
May 24, 2022 @ 9:07 am
I don’t buy this as intended but I think the Springsteen comparison is apt. I thought of Springsteen a lot listening to this album. I find both his writing content and style as well as his melodic sense to be similar.
May 24, 2022 @ 2:52 pm
That’s what I intended.
May 23, 2022 @ 11:41 am
Heavy Eyes is a straight up banger and my favorite song off the album on first listen.
Heavy Eyes, Something in the Orange, Oklahoma City, From Austin
I get that “If She Wants a Cowboy” is satire, but it was a little weird to me that he rhymed “tobacco” with “bronco” in consecutive songs.
The album is fantastic. I had long drive home from vacation over the weekend so I got to listen to it in one sitting.
May 24, 2022 @ 6:34 am
At least he’s not still trying to figure out what the hell rhymes with Bronco…
May 24, 2022 @ 8:43 am
Ah c’mon, that one’s up there with “I’m sick of your mouth and your 2% milk” and “Charlie Daniels of the torque wrench” for amusingly greatest country lines of the past thirty years.
May 23, 2022 @ 11:57 am
Billy Stay is a damn gut punch. If you’ve ever seen someone decline mentally, you’ll relate even more.
May 23, 2022 @ 12:04 pm
“American Heartbreak aiming for top 10 debut on the US albums with 55-60k units first week. It will be the biggest country debut of the year “(Chart Data 5/21). If it’s in the high range of that figure it will knock Wallen out of #1 spot. That’s pretty remarkable considering no big PR/Label pushing it every hour on the hour.
May 23, 2022 @ 12:37 pm
I’m predicting #1 in country, and #3 or #4 all genre, at least in the Top 5.
May 23, 2022 @ 3:15 pm
Considering it’s 34 songs and Morgan’s album is a year and a half old it’s not all that surprising. Morgan’s has also benefitting way too long from a bloated album in a new streaming numbers game. Will be interesting to see what Carrie and Luke do with 12 songs each on theirs.
May 23, 2022 @ 7:11 pm
Certainly the length of Dangerous helped, but lets not pretend that album isnt a monster. The biggest country album of our generation. The guy plays Stadiums and arenas now, to suggest its just streaming hype is silly. Same with Zach, if he goes big this week on the charts, and I agree he likely will, it wont be because there are 34 songs, it will be because of the passionate rabid fanbase.
May 23, 2022 @ 10:30 pm
“The biggest country album of our generation.”
Hahahahahaha. Now that’s funny stuff right there.
May 24, 2022 @ 7:14 am
A record 58 weeks as Top Country Album. You can laugh all you want, doesn’t change the facts. Dangerous is the biggest country album of our generation, facts are facts.
May 24, 2022 @ 7:25 am
Chris Stapleton’s “Traveller” may have something to say about that. “Dangerous” is up there for sure, but let’s see if it’s consistently in the Top 10 seven years after its release.
May 24, 2022 @ 7:59 am
Oh for sure! Agree, Trigger! Traveller is legendary. I also realize Dangerous isnt representative of this site. I doubt many on here are Morgan fans. That said, I think people often fail to realize saying something is massive/huge/a major success, and Dangerous undeniably is (It may not be 7 years old like Traveller, but it is over a year old, continuing to win awards, and still as of this moment the top dog, outrageous for an album this “old”), that you dont have to be a fan of the album to recognize that fact. You dont have to be a fan and love Star Wars, to recognize the reality that its one of the most successful film franchise of all time and that it is wildly successful. Same with Morgan and Dangerous. I think your article here taps into the truth at least with Zach. Something, clearly is happening with Zach and his music and fans. And its happening without labels or traditional promotional/publicity. Its word of mouth, very grassroots and propelled almost entirely by a fanbase that has been touting Zach’s music in an almost religious revival type manner. As with Morgan, you dont have to enjoy his music to recognize this as reality. Chris enjoyed similar grassroots hype prior to Traveller. I think its about recognizing that country music isnt going to come in a specific form we all expect, whether thats Chris, Morgan or Zach. You can hem and haw about it or you can jump in and enjoy the ride. Im going to be playing Traveller, Dangerous and American Heartbreak, myself, cause I love all 3!
John R Baker
May 24, 2022 @ 3:34 pm
If we are comparing this to Stapleton and Wallen I like them all but if I was going to bet on which one will the biggest and most enduring artistic impact I’d choose Bryan. Wallen is not unique enough for that. Stapleton has left a big impact that will hang around for a while. I get the sense though that Bryan is likely to be a generational influence of the sort that inspires more kids and young adults such that in 5 years there’s a new genre of folky song writers who cite him as what started them on playing and writing. And it’s not really that he’s covering new musical ground. He’s kind of just a countrified Springsteen as that goes. But he is resetting the aesthetic values back to the basics of good writing and authenticity.
May 24, 2022 @ 3:51 pm
Agree with this some, and disagree some too. Like all artists mentioned. Stapleton has undeniable influence. As far as Morgans influence its too early to tell either way. I do know, I got hugely into country because of Dangerous. Influence and getting folks into country and making country music, I dont think that person always has to be someone of Zach’s ilk, although he for sure is going to inspire alot of folks to pick up guitars and wrote lyrics. That said, if you asked the average country fan, grew up on it, or was exposed to it as a kid, I would bet few of them mention some indie artist. I would bet most folks would say they got into country via CMT playing videos, or via Chattahoochee or Don’t Take the Girl, or Friends in Low Places, or Fancy, or Boot Scootin Boogie. All great artists, all great songs, but they are all commercial as hell, poppy as hell songs. While I think the mission of this site is very important, we all love country music here, and want to see it be its best self, I often think its important to note some of our most important songs of our lives, those that transformed us, that changed us, that altered us, that got us through, weren’t b sides buried deep in some obscure artists album that sold 5K copies, but rather the stuff that was on the radio and hugely popular. Chattahoochie and Boot Scootin Boogie got alot of folks into the genre and into making music. While Im the biggest Zach fan, and think this album is one of the best country albums I’ve ever heard, I do think its important to note that just because Morgan is a commercial success, and largely disliked by this site, it doesnt make his impact any less huge. I’d guess Morgan got a TON of folks into the genre. I am one of them. Whether in 5 years time he is recognized as a legend I dont know, I do know his impact is stunning.
May 23, 2022 @ 12:19 pm
Good to see an artist put out a great album with so many quality songs. William Lee Golden and the Goldens released 3 cds with 34 songs at once of classic songs and all the songs are great. I like it when an artist pours their heart out into a project like this, and I hope more artists do this. Great job.
May 23, 2022 @ 12:48 pm
I’m on record saying that 34 songs is way too much.
I still believe that to be true, but I will say that this album far exceeded my expectations.
Something in the Orange
Poems and Closing Time
All hits. I could have done without the Johnny B Goode cover, the pop country radio parody, you are my sunshine, the walk off poem, and a few others I would have left on the cutting room floor – including the 7&7 inspired Happy Instead. But still, it’s a great record overall, and will further project him into the stratosphere.
Kid deserves his success and kudos to him for doing it his own way.
May 23, 2022 @ 2:15 pm
I agree with most of this, but especially that last statement. Zach Bryan definitely paved his own way on his own terms. I think that also irritates some of the guys here who think the only way to succeed is to follow the Sturgill recipe.
I am by no means a Zach Bryan fan boy. Elisabeth and Deann didn’t do anything for me. I enjoyed the 6 song EP…but this shit is good. He shows a lot of range with the different style of songs on this album and the writing is top notch. Overall excellent
May 23, 2022 @ 3:28 pm
Most people you find one niche music blogs are going to be snobs, just the way it goes on these corners of the internet. What music snobs generally miss and/or misinterpret is charisma of a performer because they put their art under a microscope.
Is he technically skilled beyond the pen and knack for pulling a great hook out of a song? Not really. Does his band possess professional level skill? No. But does he have “it”? Yes. And if you enjoy some or all of his music, and ever see him live, you’ll understand.
I was kind of in that same boat. I liked DeAnn, didn’t like Elisabeth, but loved Quiet Heavy Dreams. I griped when he got a shot at the Opry for the reasons above. “Total amateur, didn’t deserve it.” But when he got in the circle and delivered on Oklahoma City, I was convinced he was a likely star. Seeing him play live and watching the crowd’s reaction to him and his music just confirmed it.
He ain’t James McMurtry, but he effortlessly connects with his audience, and he means the words that he sings. People feel that, and that goes a long way. The fact that he’s probably leaving a lot of money on the table to do it his own way just adds to the authenticity.
May 23, 2022 @ 4:15 pm
“The fact that he’s probably leaving a lot of money on the table to do it his own way just adds to the authenticity.”
i very much like that about Z.B., as well.
Cool Lester Smooth
May 23, 2022 @ 4:21 pm
My dad fucking hates anything more country than Tom Petty or Mark Knopfler.
Played him some Zach Bryan, and his immediate reaction was “Not what I listen to…but he has ‘it.’”
May 23, 2022 @ 6:07 pm
Same, but in my case it was my father-in-law. Not someone who seeks out new music, but when my wife played “Something in the Orange” he was like “shoot, this guy is gonna be big”.
Cool Lester Smooth
May 24, 2022 @ 3:33 am
There’s also a lot more craft to his vocals than he gets credit for.
It’s one thing to do the “Cover Me Up” vocals, where you go right to the upper end of your range to convey emotion by straining your voice.
Zach mainly operates in the register of the bridge from 7&7 or Take Me Away, where he finds that upper end…and takes half a step back, so that he’s still singing at full power.
And he maintains it for a couple hours when he’s live!
May 24, 2022 @ 7:41 am
I’m not sure how much 7&7 I hear in Happy Again but as soon as I heard the song Sober Side of Sorry I thought I was listening to Turnpike’s The Funeral with different lyrics.
May 24, 2022 @ 1:46 pm
Subject matter, not the music itself. Song doesn’t sound like 7&7, but the story should sound very familiar. First time I heard it, I actually said “Oh God, don’t…” out loud when he hit the supermarket isle line.
Funny enough, “The Funeral” is one of my favorite TT songs, and I didn’t catch that on any of my listens. That’s a great catch though. You’re totally right.
May 25, 2022 @ 6:33 am
Maybe my brain just connected the title to “Losing Side of 25” but I heard American Aquarium style song from opening guitar riff of “Sober Side of Sorry.” Reminded me of “The Luckier You Get.”
Cool Lester Smooth
May 26, 2022 @ 6:41 am
’68 Fastback has a very similar vibe to Katie Pruitt’s “Grace Has a Gun,” too.
Jerry Clower's Ghost
May 23, 2022 @ 1:17 pm
There’s a lot of fat on this album, but I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed this one. I’ve been sour on Zach since he got started, but I’m happy to say I added some of his tracks to my list for the first time. What’s scary is the guy obviously still has a lot of growing to do, artistically, so the sky is the limit it seems.
Please, please no more auto tune.
Luke Bryan Burner
May 23, 2022 @ 1:39 pm
I’ll throw in my 2 cents. First of all, I don’t really think this is a country album. There’s a couple songs that sound country and the rest are more of a Springsteen rock and roll record or maybe an indie rock record like the Lumineers or something. Second, saying that the album had no publicity or media push is strange when it’s being released on Warner Brothers. Third and probably the longest point, I don’t understand the decision to make a 34 track album. People who already like him will love it but people like myself who haven’t been convinced yet will struggle to get through it. I’ve listened once. Plan to listen again but at this point there’s about 4-5 songs I even remember. His stuff all sounds the same so 34 songs in a row makes it really difficult to enjoy. By the time I got to the end of the record I couldn’t remember how most of the songs went. If he wanted to release 34 songs it probably would’ve been better to release this in 2 or 3 parts. Good for him though. He clearly found out a way to connect with kids. He’ll be around for a while
May 23, 2022 @ 1:57 pm
1) I agree this is a country-influenced singer/songwriter album, not a country album.
2) “Second, saying that the album had no publicity or media push is strange when it’s being released on Warner Brothers.”
It is strange, but that’s the case. Just because he’s on Warner Bros. doesn’t mean the press is automatically going to cover it. In fact, they basically haven’t. Nothing from Rolling Stone, nothing from Billboard, nothing from American Songwriter, nothing from Taste of Country or The Boot. Nothing from Pitchfork or any of those outlets. And the reason is because there’s no publicist. Or if there is one, they’re sitting on their hands. Nothing is being done to push this record, and it will still be a #1.
May 23, 2022 @ 3:20 pm
It’s a triple album, if it were 15 songs would it still be a #1? I’m always surprised I don’t see his first two albums around any of the Spotify or Apple charts, since the songs do stream well do his fans listen on Youtube or something?
May 23, 2022 @ 5:48 pm
Trigger there is alot of push from Spotify. They made him the first country artist on their RADAR or whatever. They also put him second in the song list for new music Friday Spotify has been actually pushed them pretty hard they put them in all sorts of different playlists this week. maybe Warner is realizing that’s where most of his fan base has come from streaming. Why waste money getting reviews done and this is clearly a digital age fanbase.
May 23, 2022 @ 6:02 pm
Could be, but they haven’t even sent out a press release. Doing anything at a major label is like turning a battleship. I think Zach Bryan wanted to blast this out, and Warner can’t keep up. Spotify handles all of that curation. Major labels have an impact, sure, but I think they probably see the engagement Zach is getting, and they’re responding. HITS Daily Double is saying the album has already accrued over a billion streams.
May 23, 2022 @ 6:08 pm
Go get ’em Zach!
Show ’em how its done
May 23, 2022 @ 7:08 pm
I’d argue most of those outlets are outdated. I havent cared about Pitchfork in a decade, I’d rather follow Whiskey Riff, Country Central, The Boot, Grady, and this here website for country news, than any of those other sites. Zach is blowing up, organically, not promoted by some out of touch Pitchfork writer, but by passionate fans, and I think his chart placement will reflect that. The fact he is doing what he’s currently doing, without the help of a publicity arm just shows how passionate we all are. He’s struck a nerve in a way few artists ever will, theres hype and then theres this. What could Warner’s or Nashville do for him that the fans arent already doing? The fact he opened for Luke Combs isnt coincidental, because although Luke clearly has a label and a huge machine behind him, he too, has always been pushed not really by labels or being on magazine covers, but rather by the Bootleggers, and the strength of his songs/voice. This is populist country in action. I think Nashville should take notice of whats going on.
May 23, 2022 @ 8:06 pm
Well, those outlets are definitely outdated. And I have my issues with Riskey Whiff, but they deserve credit for paying attention as opposed to just waiting for a publicist to reach out and tell them what to publish.
May 23, 2022 @ 2:29 pm
Totally agree. This is an album for people who are already obsessed.
May 23, 2022 @ 1:44 pm
I’ll start out by saying I’m 47 so it looks like I’m much older than most of his fans, but I’ve listened to Zach Bryan more than any other artist the last 3 years. Been a huge fan since I first heard him. I would say my favorite songs off this new album are and this is in no order:
Cold Damn Vampires
Something in the Orange
I actually like every song on this though and can listen from start to finish. When I hear of people saying they don’t like Zach Bryan I always think of Hank 3 and the lyrics to his song “Not Everybody Likes Us” where he says “Not everybody likes us but we drive some folks wild”.
May 23, 2022 @ 1:47 pm
I ended up breaking it in to thirds as I was listening over the weekend and that final third especially goes hard.
May 23, 2022 @ 2:18 pm
I am a little surprised this only got an 8.3/10 also
David: The Duke of Everything
May 23, 2022 @ 2:49 pm
Have never listened to this guy. Only way I know his name is cause he gets mentioned on here. I’ll probably give a listen but from what I’m hearing, I probably won’t like it but I’ll see.
May 23, 2022 @ 3:12 pm
A fifty five year old listener who is thrilled with the length of the album. What a delight to discover a new favorite or two with every listen. Digging Younger Years right now. A heck of a thumping fun song.
Thanks for the review Trig.
May 23, 2022 @ 4:06 pm
I agree. It seems odd some people complain that there are 34 songs.
Cool Lester Smooth
May 23, 2022 @ 4:23 pm
I like being able to listen to albums in a single sitting, without it being a project.
I’d have preferred 3 10-12 song albums over the next few months, personally.
…but this is a damn good album.
May 23, 2022 @ 4:56 pm
Well, it will be interesting to see where his story goes. Wish him all the best.
Now, what about this new cat “Jelly Roll”? Is he for real or more of the same?
May 23, 2022 @ 5:33 pm
Never have delved much into his music, but plan to buy this album to discover him more. Listening to some of it online now, and seem to enjoy it. Nice to see other younger folks, like myself, like well written music.
May 23, 2022 @ 6:05 pm
34 songs is a lot and some editing down would have likely made for a more “cohesive” album experience. That said, when the good/great songs rise up on this album, they are damn good. I’m in my mid-30’s, so Bryan’s social media prowess means little to me, but the dude DOES have the goods as a songwriter. Tishomingo is my unsung favorite right now, but there are 12+ songs on this album that I think will stay in rotation for me quite some time.
May 23, 2022 @ 6:32 pm
I think its Album of Year. Havent been this obsessed with an album since Dangerous. Ive had AH on repeat all day since its been released. Excited to see what happens for this dude. I think it knocks Dangerous permanently off the Top Country Album chart (ending Morgan’s record at 58 weeks), and who knows where it goes from there. Im seeing alot of folks suggesting something was put into this album to make us listen so much. This is already my most streamed album of the year and its been out, what, 72 hours? This album is a monster, and I havent been this pumped since Dangerous.
May 23, 2022 @ 7:23 pm
As I gave this an initial listen it became a bit monotonous. I did take the songs that stood out to me and put them in another playlist. After another listen I dropped a few of those. I ended up with about a 10 song playlist, or about an album’s worth. I think I’ll stick with those for now, and may or may not return to listen to the rest later. Overall, I’d say this album made out for a pretty good playlist.
May 23, 2022 @ 7:38 pm
46 years old and can’t stop listening to this…Zach is a next level talent and I think 34 songs is just the beginning. He is doing something different. Cheers to Trig for the well thought review.
“I hope your sunsets always bleed red
And your family’s always well fed
And the song stuck in your head plays all night…”
Too many great lines…this is poetry.
May 23, 2022 @ 8:31 pm
I kind of waited to see what the general consensus was from everyone but I did what I knew I was going to do and I see a few above me similarly did. After giving it a couple of full listens I split the mostly acoustic (that many would say “sound the same”) songs up from the others at least for now which still gave me 17 or so to start with. I really like many of these bangers and twangers already and I can easily see a great 13 song playlist. Just wondering what songs I can expect during the hour or so set opening for Turnpike & Willie here at the Smokeout?
May 24, 2022 @ 4:30 am
I’m interested in the songs you chose, if you care to share.
May 24, 2022 @ 7:59 am
These are the ones I picked and a preliminary running order that will most likely change as I’ve only even heard these 3 or 4 times…………. it’s tedious this way but I’m sure when I get to the final list/order It’ll be a great playlist for the rotation. He’s already playing bigger shows than I would normally go see and at my age 61 I’m certainly not his target audience. That doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy a bit of the hysteria the youth is mired in over him and it’ll be fun to watch live. I love the enthusiasm for the young rebel!!
If She Wants A Cowboy
Sober Side Of Sorry
Poems and Closing Time
Something In The Orange
Open the Gate
Cool Lester Smooth
May 24, 2022 @ 8:12 am
I do think the arrangement of Ninth Cloud goes a bit overboard and compromises the hook.
The version filmed outside with just his guitar slaps.
May 24, 2022 @ 4:04 am
Zach Bryan is great. That’s too many songs. If gut punching lines are your thing go check out lost dog.
May 24, 2022 @ 5:54 am
The connection he makes with teens and twenty somethings really is astounding. My 18 year old nephew had never heard of ZB and I suggested he listen. This is a kid that listens to techno and Post Malone and my sister says he has played the album non-stop for 4 days. Something connects. Trigger may be right – a line, a feeling, a fear. Maybe it’s simply that he’s not some old guy bitching about the world. I don’t know but it sure is fun to watch and should give us all hope.
May 24, 2022 @ 6:12 am
So the 34 thing is to make more money off streaming, but it’s also a little more. Zach can do this because he’s prolific. He’s prolific because he’s young and discovering his craft, which comes easily to him. His fans love it because they’re native social media users who over-share. Zach is the creative side of over-sharing, warts and all. He’s a one-man Discord server of slices of life. Youngsters eat it up because they eat everything up, and then move on — which is another reason to give them a big old 34-acre field to graze in. I don’t think Zach and his people have “figured this out” so much as they’re just doing what comes naturally. There’s not a lot of “art” here, but that’s not the point. The point is that there’s a lot of it, and it connects — for the moment, anyway. Maybe that’s all there is, and all there needs to be.
May 24, 2022 @ 6:43 am
I do really enjoy Zach and his songwriting – and – so many of these songs sound exactly the same. But, it’s also not a bad sound. I just could never see myself at a Zach concert hearing the first few notes and knowing which song is about to start – it could be one of 10. Hahaha.
May 24, 2022 @ 7:26 am
I hereby declare this “Emo-Country.”
May 24, 2022 @ 1:26 pm
May 24, 2022 @ 1:35 pm
Von, two, three …
May 25, 2022 @ 5:59 am
He’s the Taylor Swift for white men in their 20s and 30s for sure. And that’s not necessarily an insult
Cool Lester Smooth
May 25, 2022 @ 7:28 am
Yeah, I’d agree with that unironically…and I really like Zach.
May 25, 2022 @ 8:15 am
Not until he dates a Kennedy!
May 24, 2022 @ 8:15 am
Dude is a good songwriter. I think the hype surrounding him is a bit much. 34 songs is A LOT & many of them are nearly indistinguishable. I am glad someone with true writing talent is being recognized though.
Zach seems like he is going to be one of those artists that can do no wrong in the eyes of his fans, which I can’t relate to. I think to fully enjoy this album you have to either 1) be sad or 2) be an angsty 20-something 3) be such a fan of his writing that NOTHING else matters. I listened through it twice & there are probably 10 tracks I would put on my playlist.
May 24, 2022 @ 8:37 am
The fact that there are so many comments here says a lot IMO. I never paid much attention to him before. Dug into these songs a few times over the last couple days and I’d say over half of them are solid songs I’ll listen to for many years to come. I find it odd when someone like this comes along folks don’t hesitate to tear him down, but they’re same folks that bitch about the state of country music and wish someone like this could come along and breathe life into the genre. Sign of the times I guess.
May 24, 2022 @ 9:10 am
I’m honestly blown away with the amount of positivity this album is receiving after the last few times I’ve posted about Zach Bryan the vast majority of the comments were aggressively negative. There is still definitely some of that sentiment out there, but I think it really speaks to the strength of this album despite the 34 songs that so many people are starting to come around to him.
May 24, 2022 @ 9:36 am
Its the strength of the songs and the fact Zach just has “it”. You either have it or don’t. He has that special “it” factor. And the fact that his fans are doing all the promotion for him. Is country music better when you stumble on something organically, as opposed to it being shoved into your mouth like major label stuff is? Heck yes! There are huge country superstars who play arenas with fanbases that arent as rabid as Zach’s. They all feel the music was written for them. Its not a Nashville creation. Not some agenda pushing nonsense. Focus grouped. Its honest, raw. You can hear the mistakes in the music, Zach laughing during takes, in the final poem his voice seems to shake early on. Thats real. Im kind of surprised at the pushback by some folks on here to his music. Not liking his music is totally acceptable. We all like what we like. I do find it funny, however, that this is what this site literally prays for, and some folks STILL don’t get it. I love Dangerous, but we can all agree Morgan is a human and imperfect avatar and clearly a divisive figure. Zach as pointed out is a paradox. A proud Patriot vet who served his country, God fearing, yet is a figurehead in Americana which doesnt have too many characters like him around, yet his music is beyond the divisive 2022 world of red/blue politics. Blue and Red staters alike love his music. They ALL will be singing every single syllable at his next show. Im not really sure what the doubters and haters want at this point. We all can roll our eyes at alot of pop music, maybe most of it. But is Zach’s success and rise right now really shocking to folks here? Are we really confused why AH and Zach are connecting? I cant think of the last album I listened to nonstop for 72 hours, and after the 50th listen I am not tiring of it. In fact, at this point I cant think of anything I’d rather listen to. Why are we shocked about this?
May 24, 2022 @ 9:15 am
This! This site is literally about harping about the sad state of radio country. The minute someone organic, raw and true comes along, and its amazing music, posts on here abound about not getting it, it being overrated, or it being silly. Its like, yeah… okay dude! Trigger is a good guy, but he spent the entire review unsure about why Zach was such a huge deal. We bang on and on about authentic country music. When it arrives, we complain. Its so silly. This is album of the year. I hope Zach becomes massive because of this. Ive been streaming this thing nonstop since its release. Its a special album. Im all for traditionalist country. But we also have to be open to things. A patriotic dude, gorgeous lyrics, grassroots rise, fanbase that hangs on every word. As Trigger said, when Zach performs this album, this album has been out 72 hours and his fans are going to be singing every single word of this thing back to him. Theres a reason for that. I dont understand what people want on this site, frankly. You arent required to like this album, I do think as country fans we do have to understand WHY its a huge deal, and to respect that. Zach is a future superstar. And he looks nothing like anyone prior, just as someone like Chris and Morgan looked nothing like previous folks. Youve got to be open to what could happen next. Wanting Nashville to return to its roots and to criticize country that doesnt meet that standard is fine, we all want authentic country. Zach does as much on that autotuned song. But we also have to not be such sticks in the mud that anything new or big is suspicious to us. This is real. He’s a huge deal. You can shake your head and disagree, but its happening. Most of us have been streaming this thing nonstop, to the exclusion of all other music, for 72 hours now. Wouldn’t it be wise for this site and its users to try and understand why that is?
May 24, 2022 @ 9:36 am
” Trigger is a good guy, but he spent the entire review unsure about why Zach was such a huge deal.”
I respectfully disagree. The last few times I’ve posted about Zach Bryan, it’s been an absolute bloodbath. And so what I tried to do with this review was speak to those people’s concerns, and explain to them why they should give Zach Bryan and chance, and why his music is resonating so deeply. If you’re a huge Zach Bryan fan, you don’t need me to convince you of anything. I’m here to speak to the people who are skeptics. And seeing how many people seem to have been converted into Zach Bryan fans though the release of this album, I would say that was (hopefully) somewhat effective.
John R Baker
May 24, 2022 @ 11:52 am
I suspect that people get most annoyed because he does not have the kind of refined and perfected sound that people have come to expect in the era of high production recordings and technical perfectionism. What he is doing is like the country/Americana equivalent of the throwback to rough edged and stripped down authenticity that we got in times like the first generation of punk rock. I think the style pushes back on bro country phoniness, over produced records across the board, and the “The Voice” and Stapleton like technical gymnastics that have been been so popular lately.
May 24, 2022 @ 12:29 pm
Well said. The punk comparison is apt, few if anyone can pick up a guitar and sound like Jimmy Page. The authenticity of Zach and why his fans feel so connected to him and his songs, absolutely is likely due to the fact, similarly to Ed Sheeran for an outside the genre example, a dude and his guitar. People love that. I know of course Zach has a band, but the guy and his guitar is easier to envision ourselves in that role, Zach pouring his heart into these lyrics, than a guitar wizard like Chris who also possesses a once in a generation vocals. Im not going to be able to sing Either Way like Chris or shred on guitar, no matter if I practice from here to eternity. The mistakes and rawness of tZach’s recordings are apparent, and thats part of the charm. In fact, the driving force behind Zach’s rise isnt even the albums, its him, sweating like a mad man, on some grainy self shot video of himself on his porch playing these tunes and people spreading that video far and wide. Even in those videos you could tell the kid has something special. As was said in a different post, Zach uses technology the way someone his age would to spread his craft, TikTok, Youtube, responding to fans on Twitter, but the reality its not him driving this thing. The fans spread the videos and posts, they stream it nonstop, they rave and rave about him. And none of that would matter if the lyrics and tunes weren’t there. And they definitely are. And Zach’s fans are using elements of Lukes Bootleggers and Chris’s pre-Traveller rise as blueprint to get the wider world to notice. It appears to be working.
Cool Lester Smooth
May 24, 2022 @ 2:17 pm
I honestly think it’s less Johnny Rotten than Jeff Mangum.
May 24, 2022 @ 2:56 pm
For sure the Mangum comparison too, I think the poster was suggesting though that Punk was a reaction to the prog rock and prodigy type guitar and band antics of Led Zeppelin and bands like that. You arent going to be Jimmy Page sadly no matter how much you practice. We all can relate to a dude and his acoustic penning these heart wrenching poetic lyrics though, and its much more relatable. Jimmy in his dragon suit and Bonzo on a 20 minute drum solo, we all love that, and its stunning, but those people are iconic for a reason, theres only one of them. Zach’s music seems much more homegrown and accessible to us all. Zach is a reaction to major productions in country music, the really produced music sounds incredible, millions are spent on making it sound incredible. But it doesnt feel raw or real. Zach’s does. I can’t play like Paisley or sing like Chris Stapleton, thats beyond my pay grade. Paisley and Stapleton are incredible. When I listen to AH, I want to buy an acoustic and write songs. Theres a difference.
Cool Lester Smooth
May 24, 2022 @ 4:34 pm
Zach has caught on by making the exact music Diamonds and Gasoline, In the Throes, and Southeastern made all of us want to make…and which Bottles and Bibles made some of us believe we could make.
John R Baker
May 24, 2022 @ 6:17 pm
Yeah, I wasn’t thinking Sex Pistols at all because they were really just a produced boy band. I meant the the independent scene with the DIY ethos and people who were more concerned with true self expression than big productions. American and British music seems to go through a cycle ranging from stripped down aesthetics with a focus on authenticity and truth in art to overproduced albums and spectacle arena shows. Some acts like Dylan and Metallica exemplify both at various stages in their careers. Every generation somebody has to hit the reset button to bring the focus back to accessible authenticity and good song writing that inspires other normal people to want to write. And that’s kind of what it seems like Zach is doing to me.
May 29, 2022 @ 2:39 pm
Bryan has none of Mangum’s sophistication or irony. I don’t get what the similarity is supposed to be.
May 24, 2022 @ 9:02 am
I humbly believe that if he gets a better handle on phrasing he will take it to the next dimension. He seems to use the exact words he wants in spite of the rhythm of the words. Whiskey Fever is the perfect example.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, King Buzzo on Sweet Willy Rollbar sings “ I got a motor ready so ready I, I got a motive so that I don’t.” It doesn’t matter that the words are nonsense – they are so incredibly rhythmic in phrasing. I would love to see him come with a bit of a blend! It is a big ask because only the select few can accomplish both. He could spend a weekend with Hayes and likely could afford to pay for that!
May 24, 2022 @ 10:04 am
I want to like it, because I like the guy and his story and the background to the music. And I even like the sound on some of the more heartland rock oriented songs. But I’m not a huge fan of the voice and the writing is just OK to me.
I totally get why 18-25 year olds go nuts for the stuff, since he does a pretty great job I think of capturing the careless freedom and youthful poetry of those years. But just not really for me – not trying to take anything away from those who enjoy it. And not trying to sound too much like a cynical codger.
May 24, 2022 @ 10:22 am
I was never big on Zach UNTIL this album. It’s quite good. Helped me go back and understand the hype of his other albums especially. Great review.
May 24, 2022 @ 12:17 pm
I’m a huge fan. Have been since DeAnn. I love your assessment, Trigger, of the magic of the writing in “Half Grown.”
Never have I ever heard a song in which a simple line such as his “When I grab you by the hand, you hesitate” is treated with such reverence and backed with such consideration of the reasons for the behaviors, desires and fears of people.
If one can’t appreciate this song, then they must either be emotionally barren or a non-fan of the English language.
May 24, 2022 @ 1:15 pm
I don’t get the cover art… why is he goose stepping?
No, I’m not being political and I’m not calling him a Nazi or a Soviet or whatever. Just don’t get what he’s supposed to be doing!
Maybe it makes sense since I don’t really get the appeal of his music either, lol.
Good to see him doing so well tho, seems like a good dude
May 24, 2022 @ 1:19 pm
Im 50 and I just can’t get into it. It all just sounds like Jason Isbell knock off stuff, or Tyler Childers without the edge and passion. I tried, but it just got old fast because it sounds like the same thing over and over to me But, god bless him. I’m glad a lot of people like it. Our different tastes are what make the world great!
May 24, 2022 @ 2:34 pm
Cheers, Bibs. I agree its cool how in country music there are such diverse pathways one could go down. But I feel the exact opposite of you. I never got the hype with Jason, Dress Blues and Cover Me Up are undeniable good tunes, but White Man’s World, and Jason’s persona on twitter of being a scolding middle aged dude who hates Red staters, yikes…not for me! With the exception of those two tracks, he seems like a pretty average writer. Never understood why Jason got hyped up as the Dylan of indie country by so many on this site and elsewhere. I’ve never understood how someone like that who has had such public failings could be so judgmental and unfeeling towards others who are struggling and making mistakes just like he does. I don’t like people who thumb their nose at others or look down. I definitely hear the Tyler comparison with Zach though, I also think he has shades of Morgan in his voice. I think with Zach its cool because he’s such a humble guy, doesnt appear to come from a rich family, just a Patriotic Navy Vet who makes some honest, and intense music. With Zach theres no added agenda with the politics like with Jason and latter day Tyler. Theres probably good reason to suspect Zach is a right winger, but beyond the God references, he, unlike so many in Americana and in current Nashville, he doesnt browbeat us to agree with him and look down on those who dont share his beliefs or political opinion. Theres no references to presidents, elections, social issues, viruses, or any other number of things plaguing this country. I don’t want to be told that Im stupid, lesser, dumb, ignorant or worse for voting for a President or the color of my hat. Im glad Zach offers 2 hours of a break from that, and just focuses on the music. Me thinks that might be why this album seems to be taking off like it is, its shared among and by fans to others, and its something everyone reguardless of political affiliation can enjoy. Jason’s concerts and Aaron Lewis’s concerts are going to be specific demographics. Zach’s shows I think are all encompassing, all are welcome and all have a good time.
May 24, 2022 @ 6:42 pm
I don’t disagree with anything you said. I can’t get into the album, but I wish him the best for exactly the reasons you discuss. I certainly hate the Isbell political garbage, and appreciate this young guy not creating more division!
Cool Lester Smooth
May 25, 2022 @ 7:26 am
If you think he’s “average” outside of two songs, you definitely need to listen to more Isbell, haha.
Outfit, Decoration Day, Goddamn Lonely Love, TVA, Razor Town, Alabama Pines, Elephant, Live Oak, Yvette, 24 Frames, How to Forget, Children of Children, Last of My Kind, Tupelo, If We Were Vampires, River, St. Peter’s Autograph, Letting You Go…
The guy’s definitely a dick on Twitter…but he’s also written a TON of excellent songs.
All of the ones I listed are legitimate “SCM Song of the Year” caliber joints, and I actually left off quite a few personal favorites.
May 24, 2022 @ 2:02 pm
I am struggling to get into this one. I really like the dude. I loved Elizabeth. DeAne was okay. I do like the better produced tracks. Something is better than nothing though. Glad to hear new music from him.
May 24, 2022 @ 2:23 pm
Looks like Zach might have the #5 best selling album of the week if predictions hold. Ahead of Dangerous. For someone out of nowhere like Zach, this is a ridiculous achievement. Hope he continues to blow up! Would be cool to have it slowly move up the charts to number 1 in a few weeks!
US albums chart preview (via
May 24, 2022 @ 5:35 pm
Listened to the whole album today.
I enjoyed it more than his previous work. I will say that a great deal of the songs tend to bleed together sonically. But he is definitely a wordsmith.
Thought the weakest part of the album was the last four songs.
May 24, 2022 @ 6:45 pm
I don’t have much to offer than what had been said. I do enjoy his music. This is a pretty damn good accomplishment of an album. I find myself rooting him on Pretty weird though, he said that he doesn’t think he will tour again after this.
May 24, 2022 @ 6:57 pm
Zach Bryan has always been a bit of a head scratcher in that most of his songs all sound the same to me. This album was more of that, but I will say that ‘Half Grown’ stood out so much. Even though I wonder why he is so popular, I am glad he is. He is genuine in his writing. While I feel like it may be repetitive at times and the melodies may all sound the same at times – I always feel like it comes from a genuine place and he writes from the heart. I don’t find myself reaching for his music, but I will be adding ‘Half Grown’ to playlists. He is so young and I see him only getting better with time in his songwriting ability. it will be interesting to watch. He is a true artist and I admire that and am glad to see him doing well with a strong fan base.
May 24, 2022 @ 10:57 pm
So since hearing of Zach last yr i suppose i have tried and tried to play a song or 2 here and there too see what im missing. But i just havent been able to listen to a whole song yet. I feel like i need to be sitting in a dark closet in my room and listen too it too focus on it or something. Idk hard to explain. But have nothing against him or anything. Kudos to him for making an impact on people and doing it his way.
May 25, 2022 @ 6:02 am
Got curious about your other double album reviews. One that stood out was Weight of These Wings got a 7/10, noting there was some filler but it was a symbolic entry of Miranda and perhaps all of mainstream basically into the Americana mindset. Interesting that this one scored so much higher than that
May 25, 2022 @ 9:32 am
Enjoying the album, but I can’t help but hear the Heights singings “how do you talk to an angel?” over and over again. Surprised the enthusiasm present on this website when Bryan sounds like somewhere between late 80s heartland rock and early 90s raspy folky coffee house rock. But it gets the kids off of bro-country, them I’m all for it.
May 25, 2022 @ 9:33 am
I got an email for Zach Bryan’s Red Rocks debut in November with a presale code. I wonder how that sale will go down. I’m not going to try to get tickets as I’m not a fan myself, but I’m sure the sale will be a cluster fuck like Turnpike, Billy Strings, and most recently for me, Widespread Panic (I didn’t try to get Turnpike tickets either, but BS and Panic was impossible to get all the tickets we wanted).
I may take a gander through the upper north parking lot though, just to see what the preshow goings on are all about.
May 25, 2022 @ 10:30 am
He’s technically good. He just needs to find a voice. He sounds like a lot of different people on this record but I don’t hear him. I think he blew up before he had a chance to really figure out who he is. Good for him. If you can figure that out while making money do it. But I think Zach Bryan ten years from now is going to be a very different (better) thing, if he’s still at it.
May 25, 2022 @ 7:27 pm
I really enjoyed the album. Better than his last two which I still enjoyed. My favorite song of his before this album was probably Loom which is severely underrated. Tons of high points on this album. Something In the Orange is fantastic, Billy Stay is an absolute heart ripper, Half Grown has some tremendous song writing, and Cold Damn Vampires. Even some of the songs that are overshadowed I really enjoy. 68 Fastback, Blue, Right Now the Best, and Tishomingo. He has so many good one liners like “I’d rather be ruined by you then be loved at all” or “My vices ain’t in place to replace a loving home. You can’t expect to haven’t where the fields half grown”. He has so much potential I hope he can grow into. He’s very raw and I get people can’t get into it. This album doing so well is a win for country music and honest song writing.
David: The Duke of Everything
May 25, 2022 @ 9:12 pm
Well I listened to it all, will try to give it another listen to totally absorb it but I’ll still give my thoughts. It does overall have a local kind of sound to it. A lot of it also does sound the same and if you combined them, you wouldn’t know the difference. It’s definitely more Springsteen sounding than country though. Nothing wrong with that, I like Americana type stuff. There are a few songs that give a country vibe though. There are probably really only maybe six songs I think are good but the rest seem average. In fact I would say overall it’s an average record, nothing great or terrible just ok for the most part. I would have a hard time choosing songs to put on a current playlist though more listening might change that. I don’t quite understand the popularity but that’s ok. I will say his version of you are my sunshine is probably the worst I have ever heard, I even like regular people versions. I love that song but he just didn’t do it any justice.
May 26, 2022 @ 4:03 am
He did release vinyl for this album! Had to pre-order them and they won’t be in for like 6 months. I snatched it up right away.
June 1, 2022 @ 6:02 am
I’m late to the party as I’ve been out of town. Having said that, being on a trip has given me the chance to listen to this album A LOT. I agree with much of the above, positive and negative, and what I take away from it is that all this conversation, argument, etc. is definitely a good thing. Like it all, like some of it or like none of it, it’s great for drawing interest and spurring conversation about the MUSIC.
Here’s the only thing I”m pissy about: Everyone here and elsewhere blasted Paul Cauthen for “Country as Fuck” but seems to give Zach Bryan a pass on “If She Wants a Cowboy.” These are two sides of the same coin, only Cauthen’s is legit funny and frankly, kind of a banger, while I feel like Zach’s is well intentioned but one of the songs I’d cut as the joke doesn’t quite make it for me for the length of the song. #JusticeForBigVelvet
June 14, 2022 @ 6:19 am
I just can’t get into this guy and have been trying since Trig first reviewed DeAnn. There is definitely something there, but his voice just kinda ruins it for me and the whole “gonna be huge” thing feels really forced. Better than most on the radio, but outside of that, not feeling it.
October 13, 2022 @ 7:08 pm
Can’t wait for Deep Satin to come out. I can wait a bit, though, after American Heartbreak, then Summertime Blues, then Till Brooklyn, then Burn, Burn, Burn, and now Starved.