This is a guest article By John Cherry

When someone to whom I feel very close suggested that I listen to the song “Knee Deep,” by the Zac Brown Band, I ended up on YouTube and watched a beautiful pictorial that accompanied the song. Today, I have seen that the song was #1 last week on the USA Today country airplay charts. The video has been watched over 4 million times. Now, there is also a new video with the band, as well as Buffett, that is quite entertaining.

But, let me start at the beginning. First, the title of the CD made me think about The Beatles lyric of “the love you take is equal to the love you make.” Being a huge Beatles fan, I also heard some resemblance to The Fab Four’s sound, especially the violin, in a few of the songs on this CD.

The opener is “Let It Go,” which is written as a lesson from a father, with the central message being the line of “heart above your head, eyes wide open,” and don’t hold on to failures, just “let it go.” Besides the effective lyrics, there is strong violin play through out, and the song slows down at the end for a group harmony that drives the “let it go” theme.

Second is “Knee Deep,” which also features Jimmy Buffett on partial lead vocals in a sterling performance. With Jimmy involved, there is the created sense of being near the ocean, which is driven home intently by the lyrics. The idea of being near the “salty sea” as a paradise is presented convincingly, but so is the idea of having lost a lover in the past that you desire to be reunited with in the near future. The lyrics are so good that only a simple guitar backing is needed for the song. The YouTube videos are great, the song is awesome, and is one to listen to frequently with great joy.

“No Hurry” combines the guitar and the violin, with the latter providing an expressive and excellent lead solo. The song is basically about escaping life’s daily and lifetime challenges, offering options like grabbing a cane pole to fish and avoid any issues of the day.

The fast-paced “I Play the Road” is basically a story about a touring singer’s life. I heard an influence of The Allman Brothers Band during the tune, which ends with the singer talking to his daughter about the difficulty of leaving her to return to the road.

While “Knee Deep” is quite personal to me, the same is said with a negative connotation for “Cold Hearted,” a story of personal betrayal. Outlining the personal character of a former lover, the song expresses the opinion that the betrayer should pay equally for the betrayal. The slower paced song is accented by a very soulful violin played by Jimmy De Martini.

Betrayal is again explored with “Whiskey’s Gone,” although the theme is in the title about the need to escape the pain via a whiskey bottle. The pace is mostly accelerated in the song, although there are variances, and the lead instrument in the song is spread among the group.

A more uplifting life experience is suggested in “Quiet Your Mind,” advising the listener to “soak it all in and enjoy the ride.” Chris Fryar is the standout in this song with his excellent drumming.

“Colder Weather” makes me happy to be living in Florida. Opening with a piano lead, the story is about a man “born for leaving” that loves his Colorado girlfriend, who wants him to stay with her. But, she recognizes that he is a “ramblin’ man” (another Allman Brothers reference?) and seems resigned that he will continue being on the road, often unable to get back to Colorado due to the weather.

“Settle Me Down” exhibits a Spanish flavor in the vocal with a reggae influenced beat. The lyrics include a shot at lawyers and bankers, easy targets these days, and the song has a variety of paces. It seems the band is enjoying themselves throughout the song.

Alan Jackson appears in fine form in “As She’s Walking Away.” The song is focused on a new female attraction, with Jackson’s vocal contribution portion focused on urging the man to take a chance to make an introduction. The violin is again prominent as the lead instrument and in a solo.

The quirky “Keep Me in Mind” opens with a count-in followed by a yelp and a statement that the song is “gonna be funky.” There is a mellow middle to the song, and I almost get the feeling of a soul song. The theme is also about seeing a new female, and asking to be remembered by her.

“Who Knows” is a mid-paced rocker with a lengthy instrumental beginning. The song basically is asking the question about what life will bring. The overall talent of the band is on display here with contributions from a Hammond organ, the violin, and guitar, plus a near drum solo. In almost “Hey Jude” like fashion, the song has a prolonged finish, accented again in a speedy finish led by the guitar and drums.

“Martin” is simply the story of Zac Brown’s guitar and his relationship with it. Mostly showcasing Brown, he clearly expresses how the relationship is built and maintained. The mostly mellow song has a strong harmony segment toward the end, along with a short solo at the finish.

The band takes a romp through “Make This Day,” with Zac’s lead vocals answered by the group in unison. The story is about a man getting in constant trouble, and depending on his girl friend to bail him out of jail. In the end, she hangs up on him when he calls and is not bailed out of jail. Jerry Lee Lewis came to my mind when listening to this song, which finishes with a strong guitar and drum combination.

The first of two bonus tracks is a live version of the song “Oh My Sweet Carolina.” Taking shots at Houston, Cleveland, and Las Vegas, the song expresses a disdain for large cities, and a longing for Kentucky, where the “sweetest winds blow across the South.”

The CD finale is simply titled “Nothing.” It is another story of a difficult breakup that leaves the singer declaring that the rest of his life would consist of “nothing to do with you.” The mid-paced tune has three different vocalists, and nice guitar and violin solos.

My conclusion is that you can find a bit of everything in this CD. The lyrics are alternately entertaining and deep, as well as quite serious at times. The vocals and diverse musical talents are showcased consistently in a wide ranging selection of songs. I suggest you secure it for yourself.

John Cherry – Author-“Better Than Lennon-The Music & Talent of Paul McCartney and “Paul McCartney’s Solo Music Career 1970-2010. Visit betterthanlennon.com for special offers

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