Zach Bryan – American Heartbreak
An old adage states that an artist has a lifetime to make his/her first album and only a few months to
make the second. Country singer Zach Bryan had enough songs to populate a few albums. Instead, he
dropped them all on his 34-track debut album, American Heartbreak.
Encompassing more than two hours and spread across six sides of vinyl, Bryan’s introduction has clearly
struck a chord. Since it’s digital release last summer, American Heartbreak has been streamed more
than one billion times.
Bryan is a talented songwriter, able to conjure touching vignettes of blue collar America. His songs are
populated with people who struggle with money or struggle with drinking. They try to forget past
romances and remember every detail of current or prospective beaus. These are not new topics, of
course, but Bryan makes them feel engaging and original.
These strengths, however, tend to blur together across the album. With two exceptions, all of the songs
are between 3 and 5 minutes long. They’re also based around a similar arrangement of jangly acoustic
guitars, upbeat percussion, harmonicas and, occasionally, fiddle or banjo. With no long jams to break up
the pacing or even much of a pause between songs, American Heartbreak races from one cut to the next
with metronomic regularity.
The digital success of American Heartbreak has positioned Bryan as a force in country music with plenty
of staying power. Bryan’s earthy songs mostly made on wooden instruments sound even better on LP.
One of the benefits of records is that the music is broken into smaller pieces to accommodate each side.
This works in American Heartbreak’s favor, making the overstuffed album easier to digest and enjoy. -Joel Francis