Jekyll + Hyde: A Tale of Multiple Personalities

Much of Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde deals with the idea of alternation. Alternation between good and evil behavior; an unpredictable and inconsistent personality. It’s no coincidence that Zac Brown Band’s 2015 country album Jekyll + Hyde plays upon a sense of variation, in terms of both rhythm and the perspective of the singer.

The band explores the use of various vocals, instruments, and tempos to keep listeners on their toes throughout the course of its new album. On the softer end of the spectrum, tracks call upon the acoustic guitar or violin within the introduction to set the tone for the piece. From there, Brown’s vocals shine through, and the beat is kept fairly consistent without calling attention to itself. Such is the case in singles “Dress Blues” and “I’ll Be Your Man (A Song For A Daughter).” In “I’ll Be Your Man” the listener is reeled in by the guitar and percussion instruments before Brown takes over vocally. Conversely, shortly after the keyboard and violin make their presences known in “Dress Blues,” the lead singer and chorus grab our attention.

The album does not constrict itself to these slow and reflective singles. As the pace of the tracks speed up, the vocals and instrumentals compliment each other as they grow stronger. While the group is known as a country band, these upbeat songs could be categorized under the modern rock genre. We can see this shift at work in both “Loving You Easy” and “Homegrown.” Brown’s voice has intensified, the guitar ushers in a swifter tempo, and we find ourselves singing along with the chorus.

The album’s intensity culminates within a few hard-hitting singles. Straying away from the soft country or modern rock sound, these tracks further diversify the collection by adding a hard rock feel to it. In “Heavy Is The Head” The electric guitar sound is amplified, the percussion instruments have a fiercer impact, and the vocals are as thunderous as we have heard from this group. So you thought that Zac Brown Band only appealed to country music lovers? Think again.

The rhythm is not the only thing that varies between songs in Jekyll + Hyde. Upon further scrutiny, the lyrics reveal multiple perspectives on behalf of the singer. The sentiments range from content to nostalgic, remorseful to aggressive. Rather than sticking to one set narrative, each song tells its own story through the vocalist’s voice in that particular situation. “Wildfire” is a lively firsthand account of the joy and lust that the singer experiences while pursuing their loved one. On the other hand, Brown calls upon the third person in “Dress Blues” to express the regret and sadness that comes with losing someone near and dear to so many. Regardless of the song at hand, each track individually communicates with audience members.

If you are looking for an album that will uniquely position Zac Brown Band in a certain light, Jekyll + Hyde is not the one for you. As listeners, we are left to intriguingly scratch our heads. Was that album country or rock? Is the singer satisfied? Depressed? Longing for something or someone? Whether or not one enjoyed the multiple personalities of the band’s latest record, one thing is undeniable: the tracks prove how dynamic of a group Zac Brown Band is.

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