Music

Zach Bryan’s ‘The Great American Bar Scene’: All 19 Tracks Ranked

By now, Zach Bryan fans know what to expect from his music: overwhelmingly mid-tempo, acoustic guitar-based songs that are inevitably going to pack a punch. Without ever changing his inflection much, Bryan’s songs continue to deliver an emotional wallop thanks to his economical, but cinematic, trenchant lyrics. You wouldn’t think he could be much more stripped down than he’s appeared on previous sets, but on The Great American Bar Scene, out today on Warner Records, he feels even rawer.

This is Bryan’s fifth album in five years (there are also some EPs thrown in there for good measure) and his third since signing with Warner Records and breaking through with 2022’s 34-track American Heartbreak. He followed that set with last year’s self-titled 16-track effort that included his No. 1 Hot 100 hit, “I Remember Everything” with Kacey Musgraves, and also became his first No. 1 on the Billboard 200.

In a very short time, the 28-year old Bryan has put together quite a canon. His ongoing conversation with his fans feels like he’s sharing intimate observations with just a few key words that then leave the listener to fill in the details. It’s a masterful skill. 

ZACH BRYAN, THE GREAT AMERICAN BAR SCENE

On The Great American Bar Scene, Bryan is joined by one of his most obvious influences, Bruce Springsteen, on “Sandpaper.” Like The Boss, Bryan’s music sounds uniquely American (which may explain why he dropped the album on the 4th of July) and traffics in troubled, common-man characters who easily lurk unnoticed in the shadows as they wrestle with their demons and sketchy circumstances. Bryan finds a less likely duet partner in John Mayer on “Better Days.”

At 19 tracks, the album feels less overstuffed than American Heartbreak, but could have still used a trim or two given the relative sameness in the sound of the tracks. However, Bryan’s fans seem to have an unlimited capacity to absorb his prolific output. 

Here is a preliminary ranking of Bryan’s The Great American Bar Scene. A double vinyl version will be released Oct. 10.

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