Zac Brown Band, "Uncaged" (Southern Ground/Atlantic)
The Zac Brown Band delivers a message with the title of its new album, "Uncaged" — and the songs back up that statement. Although still likely to be described as a country band, the Georgia group purposely, and admirably, avoids current Nashville conventions on their new collection.
Ten years in, the ZBB instead focus on the tight interplay the ensemble has developed through heavy touring, dwelling on instrumental chops as much as on vocals and hooks. They also cast a broad view toward material: There's country music, for sure, in the harmony-driven "Goodbye In Her Eyes" and hoedown picking in the exhilarating "The Wind." But, keeping to its theme, "Uncaged" takes on fierce southern rock on the title cut, gospel-tinged mountain soul on "Natural Disaster," 1970s singer-songwriter musings on "Lance's Song," and Caribbean-influences on "Jump Right In," which has more in common with Paul Simon than Kenny Chesney.
Altogether, "Uncaged" is a powerful artistic declaration rather than an album carefully plotted to achieve maximum radio exposure. It succeeds, too, suggesting Brown and his fellow instrumentalists and songwriters plan on gaining a reputation for musical diversity rather than safely repeating an established formula.
CHECK OUT THIS TRACK: "Overnight," the boldest cut on "Uncaged," shifts into contemporary rhythm-and-blues, overtly describing a couple's seductive evening, set to a quiet-storm track that crosses Usher with Marvin Gaye.