Zac Brown Band Tries Out a Radio-Friendly Sound on “Homegrown”

A country band that values their quality above all seems rare, especially at a time that the lines between country and other genres are getting blurrier by the day. It doesn’t matter how you put it: Zac Brown Band wants to make great country music. Fans and critics alike have responded to their first three albums with much praise. Their last recorded release, The Grohl Sessions, Vol 1 (2013), saw the band team up with Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters and Nirvana fame to create a stunning EP. Grohl Sessions was rugged, raw country rock embellished with the band’s signature harmonies and extended jams. Now, Zac Brown Band is trying out something different on new single “Homegrown”—a commercial, radio-friendly sound.

“Homegrown” isn’t a complete departure sonically, and it still follows the Zac Brown Band formula. Fiddle-heavy instrumental breaks? Check. Brown’s smooth, soulful vocals? Check. Even the lyrics’ theme of enjoying simple pleasures is familiar. “I’ve got some good friends that live down the street / Got a good looking woman with her arms around me,” Brown sings throughout the chorus. It’s almost an exact retelling of the group’s first single “Chicken Fried.”

What “Homegrown” lacks is a little harder to explain. Songs like “Chicken Fried,” or even recent singles “Jump Right In” and “Sweet Annie,” were so unmistakably ZBB. There could not be another band that could perform those tunes for many reasons, their incredible musicianship being the most obvious. It isn’t until the last quarter of “Homegrown” that the band breaks a predictable four-chord cycle, adding a bridge with some interesting vocal layering and a meter change for good measure.

It’s not a bad song. Not even close. In fact, this song has the potential to be a huge hit. There’s just not much that’s different or distinguishable about “Homegrown,” even with Brown and friends as the performers. If the single is a preview of the band’s upcoming fourth album, we may be hearing a very different Zac Brown Band.