The Georgia-born Zac Brown Band is country music’s answer to the Dave Matthews Band: seven schleppy Everydude virtuosos who graduated from the frat-rock bar circuit to multi-platinum stardom thanks to a knack for crafting toothless — but still appealing — Top 40 hits rooted in jam-folk.
The band’s last two albums sold millions of copies, and “Uncaged” seems like something they gave themselves as a reward, a musical hall pass that briefly alights upon every genre they ever felt like trying on: country, soul, gospel, Skynyrd-y rock, Jimmy Buffett-lite. “The Wind” is a vigorous bluegrass stomp; “Island Song,” sung in a fleeting Jamaican accent, channels Kenny Chesney channeling Buffett. On “Sweet Annie,” the band pillages its own back catalogue; it’s a too-close cousin to their 2010 smash, “Colder Weather.”
“Uncaged” never really finds its focus and never really seems interested in trying to, but the band’s pristine harmonies and breezy melodies cover a multitude of sins. When “Uncaged” is good, it’s really good, and when it’s bad, well, at least it’s interesting: “Overnight” is a super-mild R&B number that flogs its awkward central metaphor (something about Brown as a kind of Corrections Officer of Love) to within an inch of its miserable life. “I’m your judge and jury/ So you gotta do the time,” Brown informs his would-be lover, presumably the only woman on Earth who doesn’t mind a booty call with a side helping of penal metaphors.
“Sweet Annie,” “The Wind,”