Tag Archives: John Prine

Album Review: Zac Brown Band–Welcome Home

Rating: 7/10

My relationship with the Zac Brown Band has been a storied one, and this is one time I’m not even going to try and separate my thoughts as a reviewer from my thoughts as a fan because I’ve been a loyal Zac Brown Band fan from the very beginning. I loved their first three albums and their experimentation with Dave Grohl. When Jekyll + Hyde came out of left field, with its genre-hopping and sending EDM songs to country radio, I was less than enthused by it, especially after Uncaged. However, I should say that that album had some very fine tracks, and more than anything else, my issues with it had to do with the length, as well as the way it felt like a Zac Brown solo project and not the Zac Brown Band. There wasn’t enough fiddle, there weren’t enough harmonies, and even though there are some really standout tracks on that record, it’s just not the Zac Brown Band. So yeah, as a fan, I wanted them to return to their roots–no, not necessarily to country, but just to being the Zac Brown Band again.

So, it is with mixed feelings that I write this, after giving Welcome Home several listens. You have to give Zac Brown credit; he listened to the uproar from his extremely loyal fans and basically did a 180, reversing the band back to their country roots. Hell, the first song off this thing is even called “Roots,”–and that’s where the problem with this starts. It’s all so calculated and forced, and you can tell, at least for much of this record, that even though Zac’s catering to his fans instead of lying to them, his heart is not in this. That’s why I can’t separate my thoughts as a reviewer because most of these songs aren’t really that bad. Yeah, there’s some weak lyrical content, in “Real Thing” especially–that line “genuine, made in the USA” almost screams contrived. “Family Table” suffers from weak lyrics too, and it’s also just a little cheesy; it’s another case of the band taking this whole getting back to their roots thing too far. I could say all that, and it’s all true. But that’s not ultimately my problem with this record. My problem is I don’t hear the passion and heart in Zac Brown throughout this record that I used to on his earlier albums and yes, that I did in places on their last album. Ultimately, an artist should make the music they want, fans be damned, and I’m just not sure Zac Brown is anymore. That’s no excuse for releasing “Beautiful Drug” to country radio, especially after he said he wouldn’t, but making music like this just to appease his fans isn’t the answer either, even if I’m one of the fans who wished for it.

Despite that, there are some really good things about this album. The fact that they did a 180 of course means that once again, you hear harmonies and fiddles, and they do sound like a band. That’s refreshing to hear, and this album is very consistent throughout. As songs themselves, some of these are really solid and even great–in fact, it reminds me of a debut album, where it’s not perfect, but you can see potential. It’s just that we know what this band is capable of, so it goes back to being calculated and not living up to the potential of the band.

And then you have those moments where their passion does shine through, like on “Start Over,”–yes, we always have one beach song on every Zac Brown Band album, but if we didn’t, would that be right? This one is about getting back to a good place in a relationship with a lover and getting away to the beach. It’s one place where they all sound like they’re having fun and enjoying what they’re singing about. I can also hear that in “Long Haul” and “Your Majesty,” both of which are nice love songs and definitely an improvement over the filler love songs on their last album. “My Old Man” is another standout, featuring lots of nice harmonies, acoustic guitar, and fiddle. That cover of John Prine’s “All the Best” is exceptional, and it’s here, on the album closer, that I can really hear the passion in Zac Brown that came out in their earlier songs. Actually, if we’re being honest, I didn’t know it was a cover at first, and Zac Brown made me believe this song when I heard it.

There’s not really a bad song here, and even on the weaker tracks, it’s still nice to hear the harmonies and the country instrumentation. I’m glad to see the Zac Brown Band once again sounding like a band. But it’s glimpses of what they could be, popping up to remind you what they’re like when they’re all fully engaged, which ultimately just make this album a nice, pleasant listen instead of a great, victorious return to form for them. I still enjoy it because at the end of the day, they make some fine music, and I’m also just a Zac Brown Band apologist. But I want to hear more than good songs, I want to hear the heart and soul of this band and Zac Brown, and I don’t on this record, at least not on most of it. And as a Zac Brown Band fan, I’m going to listen to Welcome Home quite a lot, and it will probably grow on me because I just like them–but I’m going to go ahead and say it before my bias as a fan clouds my judgment. If Zac Brown’s heart lies in EDM music, or rock music, or anywhere outside his roots, then that’s where he should be, and I’m starting to think that despite this album’s name, home might not be where he wants to be anymore.

Listen to Album

Female Fridays: Featuring Jamie Lin Wilson

Someone said they’d like me to do a feature on Jamie Lin Wilson, and that day has come. I am excited to feature Jamie on this Female Friday.

How You Might Know Jamie

Much like her friend Courtney Patton, whom I covered two weeks ago, you might not know Jamie Lin Wilson if you aren’t familiar with the Texas scene. If you are, she’s a member of the Texas-based group The Trishas. She can often also be found singing with Courtney.


From a 2014 article by The Daily Country, on the influences for her debut album,

The type of music she likes to make is, she says, influenced by “the greats” — Emmylou Harris, Kris Kristofferson, Guy Clark, Townes van Zandt, John Prine, Rodney Crowell and Tom T. Hall. But it’s equally inspired by those friends and contemporaries, including the Trishas and song-swap pals like [Courtney] Patton,Drew Kennedy and Owen Temple. “Their style creeps into my style and vice versa,” she says. “I love that. We’re a little team.”

From an interview with Newslang on her style of songwriting:

The song I wrote with Jason [Eady] and Adam [Hood], we started with a photo. I sent this picture of an old abandoned house in Yancey. The yard is overgrown and the windows are broken. It hasn’t been lived in for a very long time. There was a chair on the porch facing out that had been there ever since the last people moved out. They left this chair on the porch. I took a picture of that and sent it to them saying that there was a song in this picture and we needed to write it. That was one of the easiest co-writes because we all had the same image. Half of co-writing is trying to get that same image in your head. We figured out that was a great way to co-write.

Jamie Lin Wilson has gained a great reputation in the Texas scene as a singer and songwriter. However, for many years, she was simply a collaborator on other projects. Her career began fifteen years ago while she was in college; she was simply inspired by the sight of Natalie Maines, the former lead singer of the Dixie Chicks, singing and playing guitar. Shortly after this, Jamie started a band called the Sidehill Gougers (later known only as the Gougers) and began writing songs. She released a solo EP in 2010 called Dirty Blonde Hair and made a name for herself as a member of the Texas-based female group the Trishas. During a Trishas hiatus, Jamie Lin Wilson finally took time out of her life–which by this time included a marriage and three children–to record her first full-length solo record. Holidays & Wedding Rings, released on May 19th, 2015, has been met with much-deserved praise and appreciation. Finally, people everywhere are being exposed to one of Texas country’s best-kept secrets.

Why Jamie Belongs on Country Radio

Her case is similar to Courtney’s; as I said with Courtney, I am not going to spend time explaining why independent/Americana/Texas artists deserve to be treated fairly in the mainstream. This is a headache-inducing topic that can only be improved through sources such as Saving Country Music, Country Perspective, and this site that give these artists an equal playing field and hopefully more fans. This post, however, is about Jamie, and what she brings to country music in general. Well, firstly, and I don’t know why I have to keep writing this sentence on these features, she’s country! This should need no further explanation. She has relatable, real-life experience in her songs–you don’t have to have partied in every cornfield and club in the South to relate to her lyrics. Similar to Courtney’s, her songwriting tells the stories of real people in real-life situations. Like Lindi Ortega’s, Jamie Lin Wilson’s voice is unique. Blake Shelton would say, if somehow she were ever able to stand before him on The Voice, “There’s no one quite like you in country music right now.” Well, Blake, this is because mainstream Nashville doesn’t want originality, and that’s what Jamie has to offer.

Tracks I Recommend

Most Jamie Lin Wilson apologists will say I shouldn’t pick apart Holidays & Wedding Rings, and indeed it is a great album. These are just personal favorites.

1. “Just Some Things” (featuring Wade Bowen)–Holidays & Wedding Rings
2. “Whisper on my Skin”–Holidays & Wedding Rings
3. “Here Tonight”–Holidays & Wedding Rings
4. “She’ll Take Tonight”–Holidays & Wedding Rings
5. “You Left my Chair”–Holidays & Wedding Rings [this is the song written with Jason Eady and Adam Hood]

Listen to Holidays & Wedding Rings

Finally, I was told to check out Jamie’s videos with the Southern Gospel Revival, and all of you should too.