Welcome Home is a telling title for the fifth album by the Zac Brown Band.
It's a statement of comfort from the ZBB, letting fans who found the genre-bending experiments of the 2015 set Jekyll + Hyde disquieting know that the group has gotten back to basics.
Such reassurances aren't limited to the record's name, either.
Welcome Home begins with an ode to the Zac Brown Band's "Roots," before they tell listeners that they're the "Real Thing" in for the "Long Haul" -- and that's all within the first three songs! All of these proclamations of authenticity are set to the ZBB's trademark mellow vibe, a signature anchored in the smooth sounds of the '70s.
The band whittles away any tendency toward jamming or adventures, so Welcome Home rolls easy, its gait quickening only when he revives the breezy beachside sway of "Toes" on "Start Over." Even that title offers something of an implicit promise to fans tempted to stray: the ZBB know they've roamed far from home, but they've returned and are ready to begin again.
While the constant parade of country homilies gets a bit weary, the sound of Welcome Home is a warm, comfortable bath.
Brown still has a way with a honeyed melody and his band is just as supple, meaning this album is the very definition of music as comfort food.
Coziness certainly has its appeal -- it works as a balm and a tonic -- but it's hard to shake the feeling that the Zac Brown Band overplay their hand somewhat by insisting they've reconnected with their roots.
All those lyrics feel calculated and defensive, undercutting the grace of the music.