Monday, January 24, 2011

Zac Brown Band, "Colder Weather"

The Zac Brown Band is loved by many for bringing the "country" back to country radio with fiddle-laden feel-good tunes such as their recent smash "As She's Walking Away."  But their new single "Colder Weather" - an appropriate release for this time of year - stands out as one of the group's more crossover-friendly efforts.  While it will still prove to be a fine fit for country radio, it wouldn't sound out of place on an adult contemporary station either.  In some ways it recalls the classics rock power ballads of past decades, but it's stripped of the typical bombast with the vocals and piano pulling the majority of the weight.  The production builds up to a peak in the bridge after the second chorus, but throughout the song it retains enough restraint to keep from being an unnecessary distraction.

Zac's character is a "ramblin' man" with a "gypsy soul" - a man who was "born for leavin'."  But he finds himself torn between his inborn nature, and the lover he's left behind in Colorado.  The narrative lets us sympathize with both of these characters.  The song does not reveal any ultimate resolution.  We are not told if this man ever gives up his rambling ways, but we are told that the thought of his woman haunts him wherever he goes.  "It's a shame about the weather," the man laments.  But we can't help but wonder if it really is the weather that's keeping him away, or of it's really his longing for the open road, and the weather is merely a thin cover-up.  Such layered story elements are strikingly effective at portraying the conflict this character faces between his two competing desires. 

Even though there are few traditional country elements on this record, it still conveys loneliness and longing almost as well as our favorite good old pedal-steel barroom weepers.  Solid storytelling combines with wistful harmonies and an organic arrangement to make "Colder Weather" a fine single from all angles.

(Scores are given on a scale of 1 to 10)