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CD review: Zac Brown Band's Jekyll + Hyde

Southern Ground/Republic; Release Date: April 28, 2015

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Zac Brown Band's fourth major-label studio effort starts innocently enough with "Beautiful Drug" ­— acoustic plucking and strumming, Brown's vocals coming in smoothly ... and then it gets a bit electronic. A thumping bass in the background, perhaps some electronic whirls and twirls and, is that autotune? Is this really Zac Brown?

The next track, "Loving You Easy" has a hint of Jimmy Buffet's vibe while "Remedy" and "Homegrown" stay on the straight-and-narrow ZBB path of previous efforts. That is, until you get to "Mango Tree" with its horns, piano and Sinatra-esque crooning, followed by the heavy rock of "Heavy is the Head" with vocals by Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell. By this time, it's clear that Jekyll + Hyde is an appropriate album title. Later, ZBB does justice to a cover of Jason Isbell's "Dress Blues" and "Tomorrow Never Comes" is arena-ready in its Keith Urban meets EDM stylings.

If Zac Brown Band had put together an album like this earlier in their career, they would have turned off fans and simply scared people away. As it stands, ZBB has an established following who wasn't surprised to see the band involved with the Foo Fighters for that band's HBO series Sonic Highways. So, when the band flips and flops between genres with the skip of a track, it's sure to win over long-time fans for its diversity while bringing in new listeners who have only recently discovered their range. This is, after all, a band that was playing Metallica, Led Zeppelin and Queen covers while on tour last year.

The band gets credit for throwing caution to the wind and trying out different things ... even if it does sound a bit scattershot at times. From track to track it's all over the place, but damn if the songs, individually, don't work really well. Zac Brown Band will perform at PNC Music Pavilion on June 4.

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