2 Rootin' 2 Tootin'
In May, country artist Zach Bryan released American Heartbreak, his first studio album, which took off over the summer. Bryan’s writing confirms his place as the next evolution in the pop-country counter-culture, but the album's length provides contradictory messaging.
Since before the 1970s, labels continue to infuse pop sounds to make the traditional sound more inclusive. Bryan continues a long line of outlaws who've pushed back against the major record labels. This is backed up by hits such as “From Austin” and “Something in the Orange - Z&E’s Version.” He even goes as far as to change the way fans view country artists as ‘cowboys’ in the comical song “If She Wants a Cowboy.” Looking for deeper cuts, Bryan’s songwriting skills come through in “Corinthians (Proctor’s).” This song takes heavy inspiration from the Bible verse Corinthians 5:17, which reads, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come.” The album also includes a hauntingly beautiful rendition of “You Are My Sunshine.”
The biggest issue with this album is its length. With 34 songs, a complete listen takes over two hours. Regardless of how strong a writer you are, each piece can’t get proper attention on an album this long. This choice is more foolish when considering his grip over country music after that album’s release. His reach and fan base growth could have increased exponentially had he broken this album into three releases throughout the summer.
Those who came before Bryan were about the music, the culture, and the stories of country music. `While Bryan’s style is the continuation of those creators, the air of an album this long feels incredibly mainstream. The length makes this feel more like something handed out on the streets of Bushwick, NY by a guy drinking a kale smoothie. It puts Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings to shame.
After a long wait, Zach Bryan released his first studio album. Unfortunately, despite great songs, Bryan hurts his brand and product with the length of his work.