By Bee Delores
This self-titled record is his best yet – an emotionally gruelling project that confronts the darkest parts of life.
The crux of Zach Bryan’s new record comes down to this razor-sharp line in the opening track: “I got no hate in my heart for anything, anywhere, or anyone / And I think fear and Friday’s got an awful lot in common / They’re overdone and glorified and always leave you wanting”.
The spoken word poem lingers on the lips, tapping into the zeitgeist of the present moment. In under two minutes, accompanied by prickly acoustic guitar, the singer-songwriter muses on the working class, fear, kindness and embracing life’s quieter moments. It’s not the first time Bryan has cut his teeth into culture’s skin – as he did with last summer’s Summertime Blues EP. “I lost faith in the world a long time ago,” he sings on ‘Summertime’s Close’. Then, later, “I'm so tired of the ways of this old world,” he sings, as The War & Treaty drench the darkness in light on ‘Hey Driver'.
Bryan mourns the state of things (“I know all the damage that some days in this dark world does,” he sings on ‘Tourniquet’) while probing deep into his own story. “I lost my family to a bad disease / I got a mean, mean gene in my family tree”, he sings of heart disease on ‘Overtime', which tellingly interpolates the ‘Star-Spangled Banner' into it's very being.
Where ‘East Side of Sorrow’ dissects immense loss – exploring his time in the army, losing friends, and his mother’s death – ‘Fear and Friday’s’ serves as a companion piece to his aforementioned opening poem (“I got a fear dear, that it's a Friday spark,” he suggests).
The singer-songwriter sews fear and death into the fabric of the record, from ‘Ticking’ and ‘El Dorado’ to ‘Jake’s Piano - Long Island’ (“The best parts of you are here but you'rе still gone,” he sings on the latter). These elements squeeze his heart dry, the remnants of time and place dripping onto the piano and guitar work. Bryan’s voice remains unwavering, even though the exhaustion coursing in his veins is evident.
Love and self-loathing play an equally profound part in the album’s teetering structure. “There ain't a grand thing a man can do / she'll only love you for you,” he sings on the chorus of ‘Smaller Acts', while on closer ‘Oklahoman Son,’ he turns to a lover, wondering how she ever fell in love with him in the first place. “How'd you fall for a man I've grown to hate?” he asks. “I can drive you by where I learned to curse / He's got his creased dress whites in an all-black hearse".
It’s hard to fathom how someone like Zach Bryan, whose output has been nothing short of impressive, continues to deliver such masterful songwriting.
This self-titled record is his best yet – an emotionally gruelling project that confronts the darkest parts of life. It's 16 self-produced songs that mangle and tear through life as though it is his very last day alive, as fear, loathing, death and sadness pulse like a faint heartbeat. Funeral dirges bend and twist with piano-stretched confessionals as Bryan delivers each word with the weight of a two-ton anvil, making the record an experience that’ll leave you gobsmacked.
Zach Bryan's 2023 self-titled album is out now via Belting Bronco / Warner.
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