Zach Top - Cold Beer & Country Music
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Cold Beer & Country Music (Leo33, 2024)

Zach Top

Reviewed by Kevin Oliver

On the opening track "Sounds Like The Radio," Zach Top gives away the game – he's a throwback to '90s country like George Strait and Alan Jackson, with the same reverence for classic honky-tonk that set those artists apart from their peers and a tendency toward classic songcraft in lieu of gimmicks and tired lyrical tropes. Following that with the title track, Top and his band swing and swagger with Dwight Yoakam-like authority, revealing the potential to deliver these tracks live with a full-on dance hall band.

Far from a one-trick retro act, however, Top demonstrates his vocal dexterity with a ballad on "There's The Sun," the best Jim Lauderdale-like song not written by frequent Strait collaborator Lauderdale (It's a co-write with Wyatt McCubbin). Top's slow drawl isn't so thick that it hinders his accessibility, but there's no denying his country roots once you hear it, equal parts John Anderson and Keith Whitley.

The biggest shadow looming in these grooves is that of classic songwriter Paul Overstreet, who pops up twice as a co-writer, on "Dirt Turns To Gold," and "Ain't That a Heartbreak." The former has that loping tempo and universal theme that Overstreet patented with Randy Travis on "Forever and Ever, Amen," while the latter is a bluesy romp of a breakup tale with zinger after zinger in the lyrics. He's a natural fit with Top's style.

Top smartly follows the path blazed by Overstreet and other songwriters of his era, and on these dozen new tunes, he shows both deference to tradition and the kind of serious writing and playing that can take those progenitors and build something new.

CDs by Zach Top

Cold Beer & Country Music, 2024

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