The Zac Brown Band aims mighty hard to please, in its sweat-drenched shows and to a large degree on the group’s first two albums. That makes the more relaxed tone of “Uncaged,” the southern rock outfit’s third studio outing, modestly refreshing.
The opening cut, “Jump Right In,” is a lively Caribbean-soaked call to good times, and “Island Song” likewise mines the Jimmy Buffett-Kenny Chesney school that extolls warm saltwater and cold beer as they antidote to life’s ills.
“Natural Disaster” opens with a harmony-laden homage (we hope) to Alabama’s “Dixieland Delight” that similarly upshifts into breakneck-paced double shuffle. “Overnight” takes the band into boudoir R&B; with help from New Orleans trombone star Trombone Shorty, but stumbles lyrically by analogizing a night of romance to a night in jail, with Brown proclaiming to his love interest: “Girl I’m gonna search your body over/I gotta make sure you’re not hiding nothing nowhere.” Sweet vocal oohs and ahhs can cover up only so much.
“Goodbye In Her Eyes” lands much closer to the heart with its sketch of someone with one foot out the door, while the two closing tracks, “Day That I Die” and “Last But Not Least” serve up meaning-of-life pronouncements that usually emerge more convincingly from the small miracles of everyday living than in this kind of broad-stroke philosophizing.
Brown has firmly established himself as an engaging singer and his band as a fount of strong musicianship that continues traditions established by such predecessors as the Grateful Dead and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Zac Brown Band
Two and a half stars (out of four)