Feelings and Americana in Zach Bryan’s Zach Bryan

I’m a recent convert to country music. At one point, I might have given the usual line that I listen to “anything but country” — now, if you see me driving around campus with my windows down, you’ll probably hear me blasting my hours-long “country era” playlist. This week, the country album of choice has been Zach Bryan’s new self-titled album, a raw 54 minutes of poetry, folk and Americana. 

On August 25, Bryan released his fourth full-length album since his debut DeAnn (2019). In the last four years, Bryan has amassed over 16 million monthly listeners on Spotify and sold out shows nationwide. Yet, despite his quickly-earned success, Zach Bryan does not pose as anything other than Zach Bryan.

JONES | Everything Except Country

I remember this being a very fashionable response to “What kind of music do you like?” back in junior high California. Country wasn’t a cool thing to like: too safe and too corny, too all-American for an age when kids are excited by anything that claims to challenge authority, like the aggressive punk and rap to which my friends and I gravitated. “Everything except country,” besides being a non-answer, really only addresses the genre of music that is currently played on “country” radio. These songs are far in sound, style, and substance from the music that formed in the American South as an amalgam of blues and folk. There is really nothing on country radio today that is simply country.