12 years ago, Zac Brown Band released their breakthrough album, “The Foundation.” The album was a pivotal release for the band, and for country music as a whole. Aside from bringing Atlantic Records into the country music game in Nashville, the album musically progressed the genre. The album had five singles, four of which, “Chicken Fried,” “Toes,” “Highway 20 Ride,” and “Free,” reached number one status. The fifth, however, “Whatever It Is,” reached number 2.
“The Foundation” really accentuated Zac Brown Band’s musicality. In a genre that typically has less of a band focus and more of an individual, lyrical focus, this album reintroduced musicianship into the genre. For example, “The Foundation” highlights the instrumental interplay on songs like “Chicken Fried” and “Whatever It Is.” It truly was a monumental release in country music.
The Flow of the Album
“The Foundation” opens with “Toes,” a beach feeling, Jimmy Buffett-Esque jingle that covered country music radio for years. That rolls straight into “Whatever It Is,” kicking off the album with number-one and number-two hit singles, respectively. That rolls it into the heart of the album, highlighted by the two number-one singles, “Free” and “Chicken Fried.” The first of those two features a minute-long violin intro, further showing the band’s focus on musicality. The second highlights the go-to staples of country music, from ice-cold beer to patriotism.
Going down the stretch, “The Foundation” features a healthy mix of all aspects of the country music genre. For example, “It’s Not Okay” features high-speed bluegrass, but Highway 20 Ride” shows the soft, slow crooning. The last song of the album, “Sic Em On a Chicken,” provides yet another example. This song exemplifies the sort of storytelling that you hear in old school country. From start to finish, “The Foundation” delivers quality music from a quite rare “country” band. It holds no skips. Through and through, “The Foundation” changed the game for country music.