John Leyba / The Denver Post
Last week, the Zac Brown Band did something that completely shocked me. It released a song that I listened to 25 times in one day.
I love rock music, and I love country music. But there’s masterful twangy, and then there’s over-committed twangy. In the past, Zac Brown Band fell into the latter category, so I hadn’t spent much time listening to the band.
Then I noticed they topped the Billboard mainstream rock chart, which puzzled me. When I listened to the chart-topper, I expected to hear something that sounded like Nickelback, but was pleasantly surprised instead with the excellent country-rock hybrid.
On the album released last week, Jekyll + Hyde, the band’s chart-topping crossover, “Heavy is the Head,” features ’90s grunge rocker Chris Cornell (of Soundgarden and Audioslave fame). The addition of Cornell as a major element really compliments the gritty and grungy southern-rock track.
“Heavy is the Head” is a perfect mix of the two genres: It features deep and growling vocals — without the repetitive, often slow characteristic of ’90s grunge — with upbeat, guitar-driven southern-rock elements that aren’t overly twangy. The collaboration was a great idea and is deservedly so dominating the rock and country charts.
I always love when something like this sneaks into any sect of the music charts — it signifies a change or new genre addition to the music industry. I hope we see more country-rock hybrids in the future. Just think of some of the awesome collaborations: Kenny Chesney and The Foo Fighters, Sam Hunt and Twenty One Pilots, Carrie Underwood and Alabama Shakes.
As for the Zac Brown Band, “Heavy is the Head” proves that the band is versatile and can roll with rock music. As well as the song is orchestrated, it almost sounds like something the band has been doing for years — but the crazy part is, they haven’t. It would be cool to see the group perform more hybrid styles, or at least collaborate on couple more songs similar to this track.
Listening deeper to the album, there’s nothing that stands out quite as much as “Heavy is the Head.” Overall, Jekyll + Hyde doesn’t stray too far from the band’s traditional style, with an addition of some Jimmy Buffett-esque acoustic-driven country and a big-band, swing-style (and oddly timed) track featuring Sara Bareilles.
And I don’t think the band should alienate the sound that made it successful, I just think it should incorporate more rock music into the mix, because it works well. And all the other criticisms that any artist should receive — like more cowbell, please
Caleb Dennis: twitter.com/TheWriterCalebD