I grew up exclusively on country music.
From a young age, I was immersed in Carrie Underwood songs and Kenny Chesney melodies. As I’ve grown older, my admiration for country music hasn’t diminished; my focus has just shifted to a different branch — I now enjoy some sort of folk hybrid.
And no one does folk-country hybrid music better than Zach Bryan.
Bryan, a Navy veteran, was honorably discharged in 2021 to pursue the record deal he signed with Warner Bros the prior year. His first album, “DeAnn,” named to honor his mother, came out in 2019, but this Oklahoman found success with his 2022 single “Something in the Orange.” From this song forward, Bryan was launched into stardom, winning the Academy of Country Music’s Award for New Male Artist of the Year in 2023.
His fourth studio album, a self-titled collection of 16 songs was released on Aug. 25, and is comprised of poetic and heartfelt melodies. The album dives into heartbreaks of every variety, from friends moving away to growing out of relationships, Bryan confides in us like a friend.
As I sit outside of The Grind, I have “El Dorado” playing over and over through a singular AirPod. It’s made a home for itself in my brain, overpowering every other noise that rattles around in my head. Something about the melody makes me tap my foot along to it, syncopating every movement of mine to the guitar in the background.
This song is home to my favorite lyric of the album: “You moved away when you were younger / was it escape or was it hunger?” This string of lyrics perfectly sets up the rest of the song. And, for someone who moved away from home to feed a part of her soul, it deeply resonates with me.
“Hey Driver (feat. The War and Treaty)” opens with a conversation, making it feel like you’re on a porch swing, flying through the air. It feels friendly; it feels familiar; it feels like you should listen with a mason jar in hand and bare feet. He even writes an ode to this visual scene with his lyrics, singing “So take me down a road that’s a little bit windy / To a place they still put sugar in their iced tea.”
“Summertime’s Close” continues the tranquil vibe. Bryan seems to take a paintbrush and a watercolor palette, creating a scene for his listeners to picture. It’s relaxing, forcing your muscles to uncoil, making you drop your shoulders from your ears. The entirety of the song walks the listener through the nostalgia of summertime, exploring the bittersweet memories he has of someone he once loved. For such a heartbreaking subject, the song is oddly warm.
Overall, Bryan’s fourth album is the perfect combination of country and folk music to fit my niche interests. Bringing me back to my roots, this album was comforting, reminding me of my youth while appealing to the version of myself that has a more mature music taste and view of the world.
Edited by Annie Goldman | firstname.lastname@example.org