Zac Brown Band, "Jekyll + Hyde" (Southern Ground/John Varvatos/Big Machine/Republic Nashville)
Zac Brown rightly names his new release after a famous, fictional schizophrenic, for few artists in this genre-focused era so openly embrace an eclectic muse.
Brown sets the tone immediately on "Jekyll + Hyde," which opens with an aggressively rhythmic "Beautiful Drug," the most electronic-driven track Brown has recorded. The variety doesn't stop there, as he brings a Celtic melody to "Remedy," big-band swing to "Mango Tree" (a duet with Sara Bareilles) and a grunge-rock guitar crunch to "Heavy Is the Head" (a duet with Soundgarden's Chris Cornell).
That said, there's plenty of Brown's breezy, island-influenced rhythms and his acoustic, folk-derived style, both of which emphasize his voice and his lyrical smarts. This time, he includes a rare cover on a powerful interpretation of Jason Isbell's "Dress Blues."
Brown and his large band changed record distributors and producers for "Jekyll + Hyde," but the album sounds like a logical next step by a talented band. As always, they make it all sound coherent. They're music lovers with a broad range of influences, and they don't let pre-determined musical genres limit their scope.