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Album Review

It's been a good ride for the Zac Brown Band. This six-piece Georgia country act drew up plans for a bright future back in 2004 and cemented it as fact in 2008 with album No. 3, The Foundation. Four singles ended up topping the country chart in 2008 and 2009; another snagged the second slot. Fans snapped up two million copies of the album. The reward? A best new artist Grammy in 2010.

Building on that momentum, Zac and his boys are back with their first No. 1 album, You Get What You Give. Its 14 songs inhabit familiar, good-ol'-boy territory. And that means four-part harmonies recall Alabama and Diamond Rio, while bluegrass fiddlin' and bluesy riffin' round out a hybrid country sound. As for the lyrics, let's just say margarita-loving Jimmy Buffett would be proud to call them his own—which is probably why he turns up as a guest on a salute to lazy beach livin'.

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Pro-social Content

"Let It Go" recalls a father's realistic wisdom with regard to balancing head and heart amid life's challenges ("Keep your heart above your head and your eyes wide open/ … Save your strength for the things that you can change/Forgive the ones you can't/You gotta let 'em go"). "Quiet Your Mind" counsels slowing down and cultivating gratitude, while subtly implying God's providential care ("It's strange/How I'm taken and guided/I end up right where I'm needed to be"). Width="172" height="1", "Settle Me Down" rejects living in fear and hints at divine protection ("It's not my style/To be afraid/Of what evil men gon' do/And I won't live in fear/I know why I'm here/Yeah, I'm sheltered and watched after too"). More spiritual imagery, this time alluding to Noah and the flood, pops up on "Who Knows," a song about persevering through storms. "Make This Day" looks forward to a better future, even if the past has been filled with failure, jail and broken promises.

The Jimmy Buffett romp is called "Knee Deep," and it actually ends up being an innocuous escapist fantasy in which a man who's lost at love ponders a permanent retreat to the beach. "No Hurry" recognizes the foolishness of fretting ("I'd be a fool now to worry/About all those things that I can't change"). And "I Play the Road" clings to inspiration while on the road performing. It also hints at the toll such a life takes on a musician's family ("Daddy, where do you go/ … With a suitcase and guitar in your hand/Kissing me and Mom good-bye with a tear and a smile?").

"As She's Walking Away" finds an older man counseling a younger one to take a romantic risk. "Keep Me in Mind" prays for a second chance at romance. "Whiskey's Gone" nods at the fact that a man's love affair with the bottle is destroying him ("Got to get this devil off my back").

Objectionable Content

Three songs include a handful of profanities, including "a‑‑," "d‑‑n." "Whiskey's Gone" slips in an s-word when a drunk unwisely gets behind the wheel and has an accident. That track also largely romanticizes the man's determination to find more of the liquor he lives for. When a bartender cuts him off, he spits out a vulgar retort (involving genitalia). Likewise, "Letting Go" fondly recalls an evening spent drinking whiskey with a friend.

On "No Hurry," a prodigal looks forward to heaven even as he admits he's not ready to repent of his rebellious ways ("Heaven knows that I ain't perfect/I've raised a little Cain/And I plan to raise a whole lot more/Before I hear those angels sing/Gonna get right with the Lord/But there'll be hell to pay/But I ain't in no hurry"). "No Hurry" also crosses the line from relaxing to irresponsible laziness with this: "The telephone keeps ringing/And the boss man knows I know it's him/ … No matter."

"Cold Hearted" wishes vindictive retribution on a deceptive woman ("Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth/I want someone to hurt you, make you die the way I do").

Summary Advisory

It's no surprise that the Zac Brown Band has hit pay dirt. The 32-year-old singer and guitarist at the helm of this rising country act has struck exactly the right blend of old and new. Lush harmonies and fiddle fills stand on the shoulders of bygone country giants. Scorching guitar jams feel as current as anything you'd hear from Keith Urban or Brad Paisley.

Likewise, Zac knows exactly what he's doing when he and his crew tip their cowboy hats to longstanding—and contrasting—country clichés: It's good to kick back and relax, not to worry too much and remember that God has it all under control, Zac drawls. And if that doesn't quite git-r-done, a bottle of whiskey, it seems, just might.

It's a perfect fit for country music. But nobody's sayin' country music is perfect.

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Debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's album chart.

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September 21, 2010

On Video

Year Published



Adam R. Holz

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