I was trying to explain my affinity for alt-country music to someone the other day. She thought it was a bit incongruous for a city kid to spend hours of her life writing a blog about alt-country music. I realized that her surprise lay in her perception that country music is all slickly-produced, blissfully ignorant songs about salt-of-the-earth types being happy with what they've got, even if life is hard. I assured her that the music I like most has a working class ethos (which, again, doesn't necessarily make sense I am very much a product of the 1%. But there's no accounting for taste.)
That being said, sometimes alt-country is a fucking downer.
I say this as a bit of a warning: if you like your country with an edge, you're probably not going to like Zack Shelton. It might be fairer to categorize Zack Shelton and 64 to Grayson as indie country rather than alt country. Shelton is aiming for radio airplay: these songs are as inoffensive as possible. (While most of the songs on here are innocuous, most readers of this blog will probably want to avoid "If Jesus Ran For Office.")
Overall, Loved and Free, like their debut The Next Chapter, is a spirited, energetic, and sincere batch of country music. The title track deftly combines the best of pop rock with twang. What makes Zack Shelton and 64 to Grayson stand out -- nay, outshine -- the rest, is their sincerity. I know that can be overused, especially when it comes to would-be country radio stars, but in this case it sticks. Shelton and his colleagues are committed to these songs and clearly have a lot of fun playing them, something that's lacking in most commercial music of any genre these days. Ultimately, these are songs for kicking back with a beer and celebrating after some hard times, not for crying into one. And that's a refreshing change for sure.
Stream Loved and Free here
Zack Shelton and 64 to Grayson -- Official, Facebook, iTunes