Stacie Hestand – Raised Rowdy Contributor
A while back we told you that Zach Bryan was a name you would want to know. Now, with a sound somewhere between Tyler Childers and Jason Isbell, Bryan’s stripped-down “DeAnn” very well may be one of the most unforgettable albums released this year. Produced by Leo Alba, the debut release essentially leaves listeners alone with Bryan’s plaintive, expressive voice, the gentle strum of his guitar, and his impressive ability to string words together. He’s just a guy from Oklahoma putting his heart and soul out there for the world to hear in these twelve songs – the high points and the low, the nights that turned in to memories one way or the other, the people who were there for the ride, and the people whose presence was missed.
Some people are lucky enough to still be friends with the people they grew up with, who have usually been there though the good and the bad. “Flying or Crying” and “Doing Fine” both flash through memories made with this group of people, pulling listeners in with the places, sounds, and images of hometown hijinks and misadventures.
Poignant and insightful, “Letting Someone Go” stands out from the pack of typical country breakup songs: “you told me you despise everything that I’ve become/how we always turn into all the things we’re running from.” In the same way, the vivid imagery in some of the album’s love songs, “Moon in Oklahoma,” “Shivers Down Spines,” “Hope Again,” and “Snow” highlights Bryan’s brilliant songwriting.
Perhaps the most striking thing about this album is that it’s incredibly real. From the quaver in his voice in the heartbreaking “Sweet DeAnn,” to dissolving in laughter at the end of “Condemened” (yes, it’s spelled that way), nothing is edited out or polished for the sake of commercial conformity. Its rough-around-the-edges sound is what gives it the ability to convey the sheer emotional weight that it does and there isn’t a song on here that won’t give you the chills or make you shed a tear.