Amy Harris/Corbis
Melissa Maerz
July 18, 2012 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Uncaged

type
Music
Current Status
In Season
music label
81111
genre
Country

We gave it a B

Zac Brown Hates country fans who aren’t really all that country. At least that’s what the multi-platinum-selling frontman implies on ”Lance’s Song,” a tribute to the late Atlanta drummer Lance Tilton. ”His drums drowned out the yuppies,” Brown sings about his friend, and for these Georgia good ol’ boys, that’s high praise. Having spent a decade on the road developing his rep as a grassroots hero with songs about getting barefoot and drinking homemade wine, Brown doesn’t want his music blasting from any PT Cruisers. But ever since 2010, when his band won Best New Artist at the Grammys and 10,000 Taylor Swift fans instantly Googled him, it’s getting harder for him to keep that down-home vibe.

Uncaged, the group’s fifth album, isn’t so much a folksy jam-band opus as a savvy industry professional’s idea of what that should sound like. Which isn’t always a bad thing: As a showcase for expert fiddling and fingerpicking, it’s spectacular, especially on the bluegrass-friendly single ”The Wind.” And the three-part harmonies are spun from Southern-gospel gold (check out the shiver-inducing intro on ”Natural Disaster”). But several tracks feel like awkward attempts to reach the same mainstream fans that Tilton bucked against. On the R&B wife-seducer ”Overnight,” Brown plays an unconvincing Barry White, bragging about how quickly he can knock up his lady. And the silly Jimmy Buffett romp ”Island Song” finds Brown promising he’s ”gonna get faded at the tiki bar tonight.” Sorry, man. With lines like that, the yuppies are gonna love you no matter what. B

Best Tracks:
A wildly upbeat fiddle shredder The Wind
A somber memorial Lance’s Song

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