Zach Bryan

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DeAnn (2019), 6/10
Elisabeth (2020), 5/10
American Heartbreak (2022), 7/10
Zach Bryan (2023), 5/10

While still in the navy, Oklahoma's country singer-songwriter Zach Bryan started out with two humble collections in the modern tradition of Ryan Adams and Jason Isbell: DeAnn (2019), dedicated to his late mother, with only voice and guitar, containing Letting Someone Go and Sweet DeAnn, and Elisabeth (2020), with Heading South (his first hit) and Loom. They already displayed his story-telling skills and a delivery that avoided the stereotypes of male country singers.

The EP Quiet, Heavy Dreams (2020) contains November Air and Crooked Teeth.

The two-hour 34-song triple-disc American Heartbreak (2022) upped the ante significantly. The lyrics resonated with thousands of working-class people and the music was varied enough that the 34 songs never sounded like each other. Late July is sprinkled with an almost Byrds-ian counterpoint of banjo, Heavy Eyes is a breathless bluegrass singalong, Tishomingo falls somewhere between Bruce Springsteen and Don McLean. There's a rousing Eagles-ian violin-driven Mine Again next to the twangy cowpunk romp of Younger Years, the bluesy harmonica-tinged Right Now the Best next to the anthemic Warren Zevon-esque Billy Stay, the choral and solemn Corinthians (Proctor's) next to the melodramatic From Austin, and the mournful violin-driven elegy Oklahoma City next to the rocking ragged boogie Whiskey Fever. Among the desolate laments The Good Iíll Do stands out. The lyrics alone keep Sun to Me, Half Grown, Someday, Cold Damn Vampires and especially Something in the Orange (another hit) afloat. There are also poppy moments (If She Wants a Cowboy and especially the John Denver-ian Open the Gate) and even a breezy cover of the traditional You Are My Sunshine. One of the best country albums of all time.

Bryan hadn't exhausted his inspiration yet: he ended the year with Burn, Burn, Burn and Starved, two songs that would have been highlights on the album, the former an intimate analysis and the latter almost in psych-rock territory. Two more singles came out before the end of the year: Fifth of May and The Greatest Day of My Life. In the same album he also released the nine-song EP Summertime Blues (2022).

Zach Bryan (2023), which debuted at number one on the Billboard charts, is a humbler and mostly monotonous effort, more folk thank country. The few country bangers (like Overtime) feel half-baked. Only a handful of songs (East Side of Sorrow, Fear and Friday's, El Dorado) pack the emotional energy of the previous album, although the duet I Remember Everything (also debuting at number one on the charts) with Kacey Musgrave ranks as one of his most stately creations.

(Copyright © 2023 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )