Single Review: Zac Brown Band, “Sweet Annie”

Zac Brown Band Sweet AnnieZac Brown Band’s laid back approach can make it easy to miss when they are actually digging deeper with their lyrics.

Their music often sounds designed to fade into the background, particularly on their radio singles, which usually land somewhere between faceless and mildly interesting, but rarely compelling in any meaningful way.

“Sweet Annie” manages to break out of their normal groove in a surprising way:   Zac Brown’s vocal performance.  Usually, he sings in a way that is designed to blend in with the instruments and backing vocalists.  On “Sweet Annie”, he gets in touch with his inner Ronnie Milsap, pushing himself with an emotive vocal that reinforces the message of the song.

It’s a perfect fit, given that the song is all about a man who has been stuck in the same rut for too long, and is now trying to convince his love that he’s going to change his ways and leave the bottle behind.  When he really lets loose at the mic, the band follows his lead, with a surprisingly prominent fiddle playing two punch to Brown’s one.

Written by Zac Brown, Wyatt Durrett, Sonia Leigh and John Pierce

Grade: B+

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18 Comments

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18 Responses to Single Review: Zac Brown Band, “Sweet Annie”

  1. Noah EatonNo Gravatar

    screw zac. he’s juz jealouz of luke n hiz song thatz my kinda night. zacs soooooooooooooo bbbbbbooorrriinnggggg n lukes sooooooooooo sexy. dont let haterz like zac get u down luke!!! LUKE RULZ! ZAC DROOLS!!!!!

    ;) ;) ;)

  2. Noah EatonNo Gravatar

    …..just thought I’d get that out of the way before we’re barraged with comments much like my satirical take on fandom gone wild bereft of any satirical quality or self-awareness! ;)

    *

    Anyway, I consider this a decent, but not great, offering of theirs.

    This is way too reminiscent of “Colder Weather” in several respects, most notably the phrasing/enunciation of the vocals. Listen to this and “Colder Weather” back to back and you’ll see what I mean with how, most notably on their choruses, how Brown’s delivery has a sort of precise, arpeggio-like undulation between higher and lower-sounding syllables. It just sounds too strikingly similar and redundant. And then you can’t help but find yourself comparing these two tracks lyrically, where “Sweet Annie” can’t help but look like a relative disappointment in that it lacks the rich imagery and intimacy of “Colder Weather”.

    I also take a bit of an issue with the opening use of synthesizers in the first twenty-two seconds. It comes across as deceptive and really doesn’t contribute anything whatsoever to the whole.

    However, the egregious use of fiddle and rolling organ in the cathartic bridge, coupled with Zac’s emotive vocal earnestness ultimately elevates this track above most other fare currently saturating the corporate country airwaves. I felt it ended too abruptly and would have better benefited with a more intimate, understated coda or outro considering how closely it follows on a bombastic bridge, but it’ll do.

    *

    I still believe the band should have released “Day That I Die” as the album’s fourth single. That was the clear remaining standout in that it is both well-written and radio-ready with a captivating Amos Lee-featured vocal, but this works well too in demonstrating why the Zac Brown Band are a leading light of the current radio genre………..though I do fear it’ll become their second career single to miss the Top Ten.

  3. It’s an enjoyable single, but like Noah mentioned, it feels too similar to “Colder Weather” for me to truly embrace it.

  4. I guess I’m biased toward this band, because I consider them a very bright, shiny spot on the otherwise dreary country radio. They’re about the only performance I enjoy at the award shows and one of the very few that wouldn’t make me turn the radio station. All this to say that I like this song, but I guess I don’t think it’s better than a bunch of other songs that they’ve recorded.:)

  5. bobNo Gravatar

    I would not consider ZBB’s music to be “faceless” and only “mildly interesting”. Obviously, tastes differ and that’s fine. Next to the Eagles, they’re my favorite band.

    From their 3 albums, I just made up a cd of my favorite ZBB songs to play on car trips. I did not include “Sweet Annie” or “Chicken Fried”. Trombone Shorty made the cut and some of their funny songs.

    On “Sweet Annie” you say he’s trying to convince his love that he’s changing his ways. But he sings “can I stay with you a while” – not forever. Doesn’t sound like he’s quite ready to give up life on the road.

  6. I’ll add that the thing that I enjoy the most about ZBB, besides their production choices, is Zac’s laid back/mellow vocals and phrasing. I’ll admit that their lyrics is sometimes their biggest weakness. Case in point, “Chicken Fried.” It sounds great, but the lyrics remain inane.

  7. VickiNo Gravatar

    What I like about the Zac Brown Band is their amazing musicianship and harmonies. I love hearing them live. It’s all real, live and quite heavenly enjoyable. I like this song too.

  8. Noah EatonNo Gravatar

    The songwriting was the most glaring flaw of “You Get What You Give”. The album was chockablock with pseudo-inspirational platitudes, most notably on “Let It Go”, “Quiet Your Mind”, “Knee Deep” and “Who Knows”, and there were yet other tracks that didn’t veer too far toward the musical equivalent of positive thinking Facebook memes, yet catered too heavily to a less-polished Kenny Chesney brand of lightweight escapism.

    I will say, however, that their songwriting improved with “Uncaged”. They STILL have that tendency to lean on that latter crutch with previous single “Jump Right In” and the album’s weakest song “Island Song”, but as an album the songwriting is superior overall across the board. Most notably on “Lance’s Song”, “Day That I Die” and “Natural Disaster”.

    And the capitulation to the “island country” tropes are the only surefire example of pandering the Zac Brown Band embrace on “Uncaged”. They haven’t dared to duplicate the pandering of “Chicken Fried”. They deserve a great deal of credit for that.

  9. IgnatiusNo Gravatar

    I too think this song is very similar to Colder Weather, but I see that as a good thing since that song is on my short list of greatest country songs in recent years. Sweet Annie isn’t quite on that level, but it sure is better than the vast majority of country music. It stands out from normal radio fare both lyrically and musically. I would also say it’s the best single yet from Uncaged.

  10. TomNo Gravatar

    …”slightly warmer weather” would have made a fitting title too, indeed. is this the birthday of the unintentional cover?

  11. JasonNo Gravatar

    ZBB’s criticism of country music would come across better if they didn’t have their own songs like “Chicken Fried” and “Toes” (really, are there multiple songs about being on a beach any different than artists singing about drinking in the woods?).

    Still, love their musicianship. “Free” is an all-time song for me.

  12. Noah EatonNo Gravatar

    “Tepid Weather”, anyone? ;)

  13. I think ZBB can get away with a song like “Chicken Fried” because not ALL of their songs are like that. While I really enjoy Luke Bryan’s newest disc, there are three song templates on the album with slightly different lyrical content. At least these guys mix it up a bit.

  14. Silvana GeorgiaNo Gravatar

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  15. Another TomNo Gravatar

    Damn it all, but I love “Chicken Fried.” Like “Stuck Like Glue,” it’s 4 minutes of joy.

    Also, Noah, I think you’re underrating Let it Go, it’s more than one notch above stuff like “Who Knows” (which is much more tolerable live), “Quiet Your Mind” and “Knee Deep.”

    Anyway, Sweet Annie’s pretty great, but it’s nowhere near “Day That I Die,” which was the best song on Uncaged.

  16. Tom UKNo Gravatar

    On my first listen it was remarkably (or maybe not so) similar to Colder Weather. They could segue the two songs and no-one would see the join. Disappointing to see such a talented band go for a formulaic approach.

  17. MichaelNo Gravatar

    I really like this song, but had I not known who sang it, I would have sworn it was Diamond Rio all the way. Everything from Jimmy Olander’s signature guitar riff to Gene Johnson and Marty Roe on the vocals. Especially the harmonies near the end.

  18. mikeNo Gravatar

    I didn’t hear any synthesizers just Clay playing the Hammond. In fact if you watch the concert in Red Rocks you see him playing it. These guys write and perform their music flawlessly in concert I might add and they aren’t afraid to sing about something other than tailgates and pickups. Oh and Dave Grohl came out and said if he didn’t have his band he would be in Zac Brown. If that’s not an endorsement I don’t know what is.

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