“Zach Bryan” the Album for All

In his recent album, Zach Bryan creates a self-produced masterpiece.

Zach Bryan, an explosive country artist who has amassed fans from all genres in recent years, released his long awaited self-titled album on Friday. Bryan had spent months teasing songs during concerts and on his social media accounts, and the album was exactly what he aimed for; it was authentically him. 

After reaching over 17 million monthly listeners and more than a billion combined streams, Bryan had a lot to live up to. Recently, Bryan headlined the Farewell Festival that brought over 25,000 visitors to Central Oregon last month. 

Bryan started his music career by accident while he was in the Navy. He uploaded a few videos to Twitter and went so viral that his superiors honorably discharged him due to his success. The fact that a discharge for music hadn’t happened since Elvis Presley speaks volumes to his success. 

This album wasn’t made to top the charts or follow in the footsteps of his hits, it was just supposed to be a collection of songs that Bryan thought represented himself. And in a release he said, “all I pray is that someone out there relates enough to not feel alone.” Though, there are several songs and big-name features that could be hits.

That idea of authentic feeling was carried throughout the album where Bryan touched on love, heartbreak, joy, grief, hope and self destruction, giving something for everyone. Bryan set this tone with an emotional spoken word poem reflecting on the ups and downs of life and facing fear. 

From there, Bryan pivoted to the rest of the album that was full of his emotional, melodic and catchy singing. However, this album had a uniquely acoustic twist. Many times, listeners hear Bryan and his guitar singing about heavy topics, with a relatively simple guitar instrumental. Which makes for an intimate experience where one can really appreciate the poetic nature of his lyrics. 

A few songs in, this pattern of heavy acoustic solos is replaced with the deep bellowing voice of the R&B duo, The War and Treaty. In “Hey Driver,” Bryan and Michael Trotter, the primary vocalist, sing in unison about escape for a better place. This place in question seems to be the American South, but not for any tangible reason, instead because of an implied comfort in tradition and stability. This universal feeling is perfectly captured in this fluid duet where Bryan’s high baritone sound ends where Trotter picks up and pushes it to a goosebumps-inducing max. 

Further into the tracklist is another feature that is nothing short of a masterpiece. In “Spotless,” Bryan and Wesley Schultz from The Lumineers reflect on a turning point in a relationship. In this duo, Bryan seems to represent the optimistic thoughts of this individual contemplating the state of this relationship, whereas Schultz portrays the pessimistic side. This internal dialogue competes with the individual recalling good memories, as if they are trying to rationalize the relationship. In a catchy but serenading climax, the chorus is a smooth point where the turmoil presented from Bryan and Schultz reaches a point of agreement. This agreement happens once the individual accepts that no one is “spotless,” and that if the relationship is meant to be, they’ll work through it together. Not only does this feeling strike a chord with most people, it is also a departure for Bryan, when he normally sings about ruining relationships in one way or another. This feeling of agreement and acceptance is beautifully displayed as they sing individually, but also in a united way where both voices only serve to complement the other.

Despite these clear winners of the album, there is truly not a song that should be skipped. This journey of stories and emotions quickly distances itself from the Zach Bryan story, and instead becomes the human story. One where you can take or leave anything you want from it, but still enjoy the album even if you tune out the lyrics. This is exactly what Bryan wanted to do, and has done from the beginning, making the choice to self-title the album a wise one; this is Zach Bryan.