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American Heartbreak was released on May 20 (Photo provided by @zachlanebryan via Twitter).

Album review: Zach Bryan’s ‘American Heartbreak’ won’t break country fans’ hearts

The time has come, country fans.  

Zach Bryan’s long-awaited first major-label album, American Heartbreak, dropped on Friday. The drop was prefaced by a note on Bryan’s Instagram accounts explaining the basis of the triple album was to explore the past five years of his life. 

Bryan, who is known to fuse musical styles, stayed true to his word with the 34 genre-blending tracks. He gave fans a taste of American Heartbreak by releasing powerful singles from the album over the past few months. “From Austin” and “Something in the Orange” stood out among the five singles released for being respective heartbreak anthems. 

Although the version of “Something in the Orange” on the album — “Something in the Orange - Z&E’s version” — is actually the second version on the single release, the way Bryan emotes on the track comes across better than the initial version. 

The singles provide clear glimpses into Bryan’s intent to tell stories with his music, which he continued with the album releases. 

Bryan uses familiar country imagery such as a harmonized “Levi jean queen” in “Younger Years” to bolster his stories. The energy from a sawdust-covered bar radiates off the track and into the imagination of the listener. Bryan’s world becomes the listener’s playground thanks to his soothing voice and detailed lyrics, especially on the track “Tishomingo.” 

The classic country sound shines through in “Heavy Eyes.” The heavy banjo and stand-up bass radiate the same beat as “Jackson” by Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash but with modernized production. The track “Whiskey Fever” also has a Cash sound to it. Both are two of the best tracks on the album.

There are a few tracks on the album that do not feel like something Bryan would release, however it plays into his idea of not being a one-trick pony. “Ninth Cloud” has rock energy to it because of the kicking riff in the background, however, it does wrap back around to a country sound. 

“Sober Side of Sorry” and “Happy Instead” sound more mainstream than Bryan’s usual cuts, but they are still good songs. The tracks sound more like ones that belong on the Top 40, yet Bryan keeps them in his wheelhouse with bluegrass elements. 

Bryan leans into his romantic side in “The Outskirts.” The song describes the loveliness of living outside of the city and living simply with a partner. It has the vibe of driving through the backroads with all the windows down. Bryan also toys with softer energies in the other romantic song on American Heartbreak, “Darling.”  

There are two other songs on American Heartbreak that Bryan fans may already know. Nestled in the middle of the tracklist is a revamped version of Bryan’s 2020 single “Oklahoma City.” The newer version features more production, although it does not detract from the strong vocals. 

The second song that fans may recognize is a strumming cover of “You Are My Sunshine.” It has an airiness to it that feels like dancing barefoot on grass. Bryan’s version keeps the essence of the original version but with his own twist. 

American Heartbreak has all the right moves. From establishing a new 2 a.m. anthem in “Poems and Closing Time” to the loving tune of “Sun to Me,” Bryan does it all in this triple album. Listeners won’t have to waste a skip on American Heartbreak because there isn’t one. 

Rating: 5/5


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