Zac Brown Band – “Colder Weather”

Karlie Justus Marlowe | January 12th, 2011

Zac Brown Band

Songwriters: Zac Brown, Wyatt Durrette, Levi Lowrey and Coy Bowles

If summer is the season of love, winter is its darker, drearier counterpoint, with its shorter, chillier days grating on our bodies and minds. Accordingly, “Colder Weather,” the second single off Zac Brown Band’s You Get What You Give, sounds like loneliness and longing set to music.

That’s quite a feat, considering the steel guitar, country music’s go-to instrument for pain and suffering, is nearly silent on the track. Instead, producer Keith Stegall uses a sparse arrangement of piano and strings to an elegant effect–a perfect background for conflicting lyrics that succinctly showcase the less glamorous side of rambling fever.

Its restraint, even in its fiddle-laced, second-half ramp-up, lets the story and its wonderful pockets of insight do the talking: When Brown sings “She’s answered by the tail lights/Shining through the window pane” and “I love you but I leave you/I don’t want you but I need you,” there’s a wistful honesty there that elevates the song above the average lost-love formula.

As a metaphor, however, the tune’s treatment of the unpredictability and unreliability of Mother Nature runs deeper than just the seasons. The roadblock is lamented half-heartedly with “It’s a shame about the weather/I know soon we’ll be together/And I can’t wait til then,” but the harsh conditions serve as a welcome scapegoat for his urges to run. This adds organic layers to the song, where other radio power ballads slap on electric guitar solos on top of choir harmonies on top of orchestral histrionics.

But while its meandering manner reflects the roads its protagonist follows physically and emotionally, “Colder Weather” sometimes begs for some assistance from a GPS. It’s easy to get lost in the song’s vignettes and flashbacks, and there’s no comfortable resolution at its end–transferring much of its lovers’ restlessness and uncertainty onto its listeners.

In the 24/7, always-connected world we live in, Merle Haggard-esque shake off your load and hit the road songs of rambling and roaming are few and far between. The effortless way in which Zac Brown and his talented group of musicians capture the apologies and regret in “Colder Weather” is impressive, making it a worthy follow-up to one of the best singles and songs of 2010.

Thumbs Up

  1. Noeller
    January 12, 2011 at 11:45 am

    Fabulous tune that we’ve all been waiting a long time to hear on the radio. Once again, the thing I love the most about ZBB (and that’s a high bar…) is the harmonies. John Hopkins and ZB, especially, really fit together.

  2. Thomas
    January 12, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    …their music is simply remarkable and this song is a little masterpiece. very beautiful.

    not since the dixie chicks i’ve been impressed so much with a band.

  3. Mike Wimmer
    January 12, 2011 at 6:53 pm

    This was my best song of 2010. I was pretty lukewarm to the ZBB’s first few singles, but while You Get What You Give is a pretty average album all told, when they hit it, they knock it out of the park like they did with this song, As She’s Walking Away and Martin.

    The Guitar Song was the best album of the year, but this was the best song IMO.

  4. Lee S.
    January 12, 2011 at 7:06 pm

    I’m thrilled to see this go to radio, and I think the review was spot on. Maybe I’m just digging this song right now because my car’s in the shop and I can’t make it upstate to see my fiance. Stupid Georgia roads. :{

  5. Noah Eaton
    January 13, 2011 at 11:34 am

    Mike, I agree with your sentiments regarding the broader album. I thought, musically, it is rich and the production is overall organic……but thematically they rely too heavily on conference room-assisted topics and appeal too blatantly to the blue-collar, everyman American sentiment on one too many tracks, which results in a record that overall is still among the finest of its mainstream country ilk, but lyrically leaves considerably more to be desired.

    “Colder Weather”, that said, is a compelling exception that showcases the band’s broader songwriting potential. It might actually be more Levi Lowrey than Brown and Durante who enhanced the track lyrically with all the poetic imagery, but regardless the haunting warning signs the song paints, from the truck stop diner in Lincoln, Nebraska to the whispering pines to the blinking tail lights provides a metaphoric layering of depth we rarely see on Country radio playlists today.

    It’s true the open-endedness and lack of resolution will frustrate a fraction of listeners, but then again its honesty, I imagine, will more than make up for its ellipses. I’ve never been a fan of forced conclusions or Hollywood endings anyway.

  6. Mandy
    January 23, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    Noah,

    How do you know that the truck stop diner they are referring to is “Lincoln, Nebraska” ? I couldn’t think of another Lincoln, but no way of knowing for certain.

  7. Kyle
    January 23, 2011 at 10:36 pm

    I love a lot of things about this song, and I love that it actually has something deep and honest to say. I really like that they didn’t resolve the tension, and that they didn’t try to paint a good guy/bad guy in a black and white sense – it doesn’t try to oversimplify the complicated nature of the “gypsy soul” it refers to. I think anyone who has wanted to be with someone but had reservations about settling down can identify.

    However, I really wish they hadn’t ended the chorus with “She said ‘You’re a ramblin’ man, you ain’t ever gonna change, you’ve got a gypsy soul to blame and you were born for leavin’.” Not to mention those are four straight cliches that don’t really do the rest of the song justice, but it’s also kind of a strange way to answer the question “Can I call you then?”

  8. stormy
    January 24, 2011 at 7:52 am

    Are those cliches though, or an intentional homage to other songs?

  9. Trey T.
    January 24, 2011 at 9:45 pm

    Mandy,

    When this song mentions ‘Lincoln’, the implied assumption is that the reference is to Nebraska, in the same way that a simple mention of ‘Paris’ should be taken to mean the capital of France, not the pretty good-sized city in East Texas. I live in New Mexico, home to the village of Lincoln, in Lincoln County, but, lacking additional geographic information, I automatically (and, I think, justifiably) assumed the song was referring to Nebraska.

    This song, I think, is excellent, and their execution of it is as flawless as “As She’s Walking Away”. ZBB continues to amaze me with the diversity of the songs they release–they are in no danger of becoming typecast, as many other top 40 country acts have. With only one or two exceptions (“Toes” and, perhaps, “Chicken Fried”), they have continuously put out original material that doesn’t fall into the sort of blatant pandering most other artists rely on almost exclusively.

  10. Larry
    January 27, 2011 at 9:34 am

    This song was fantastic when they had Amos doing the guest vocals on it. The version without Amos is just plain ordinary.

    It’s kind of the same thing with their previous hit. It was fantastic with Alan Jackson on it. But without him, it would’ve just been an ordinary hit.

    It’s easy to see why Zac Brown Band didn’t catch on a lot earlier. Vocals just aren’t their strong suit. But vocals aren’t needed for radio since studio mechanics can do wonderful things with them.

    Great songwriting, though. Zac Brown Band is the group version of Taylor Swift.

  11. Mandy
    January 27, 2011 at 10:51 pm

    thanks for the input Trey. It’s hard to tell, living in Nebraska, if Lincoln is really that well known or not. Helpful :)

  12. Michele
    January 30, 2011 at 8:52 am

    Larry,
    While I agree with you that the version with Amos Lee was fantastic, I strongly disagree with the rest of your comments. This group is one of the strongest vocal groups out there. If you are not very familiar with them I would urge you to listen to Pass the Jar, which is a live CD released last year, and then objectively judge their vocal ability, or see them live, and I can honestly say that they are the best show I have ever seen, hands down, no contest. And, by the way, they are not just catching on, I think their Grammy award last year for New Artist of the Year might prove that.
    This is a group of fantastic, real musicians who do not need studio mechanics to sound excellent. If you want my honest opinion, while I love the albums, they are far superior live, which I think proves that.

  13. Reason
    February 6, 2011 at 3:25 am

    This song will be around for a while just like the group Zac brown brand seems to always find the right mojo when it comes to music I see this song moving up the charts very very fast.

  14. Matt
    February 8, 2011 at 8:48 pm

    The last verse grabs me. “I’m with your ghost again…” is a pretty powerful metaphor if they’re only separated by time zones. Did she die? Is there a time gap between the last and second to last verse? What do you think?

  15. JJ
    February 21, 2011 at 9:24 pm

    I take a different view of the song. It kind of speaks to me because when I was much younger I took a wife and shortly after our marriage she was killed. For years I fought ever being attached to anyone, even in a re-marriage and I began a ramblin lifestyle that ends as they all do, in divorce. I see the song in that kind of manner. He goes from one empty relationship to another to always find himself with the ghost of his first love. I can relate to “I don’t want you but I need you” because thats exactly how I felt in other relationships. This is a great song and there is so much more I can relate to in the lyrics, it really touches my soul.

  16. Regina
    March 7, 2011 at 5:06 pm

    Do you have the sheet music out for Colder Weather for the piano yet?

  17. Kim
    March 12, 2011 at 5:28 am

    Larry, you really didn’t just compare ZBB to Taylor Swift, did you? Oh NO!

  18. kimmee
    April 6, 2011 at 10:47 pm

    I love your sound…it about time that I finally hear some AWESOME harmony….and you guys have so many in one song…I love it! I play piano and an dying to learn Colder weather..but I can’t find the sheet music for piano…can you help with that?

  19. Adrieanna
    April 28, 2011 at 9:36 am

    I really love this song! I love u and miss u Scott

  20. The Confessor
    April 28, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    Adrieanna

    What a coincidence! I *know* somebody named Scott!

    I’ll pass along your message.

Tagged In This Article

//

Current Discussion

  • bob: @Leeann - Don Schlitz's wife Stacy is also a good singer. At some of his shows, she'll sing a song …
  • Leeann: It's hardly on topic, but Don Schlitz's wife is an actual lawyer.
  • Erik North: I like that list of country songs that Laura Cantrell drew up for people who are suspicious of the genre. …
  • Leeann: Thank you for linking to my discussion. To clarify, they're not so much my favorite Dad songs, but rather, songs …
  • Jack: "I got turned off a not so new guy’s music after he started recording songs like “Get Drunk and Be …
  • A.B.: I think I understand why the eating disorder facility wants to be located there besides it being the former Cash …
  • Janice Brooks: Hopes somebody gets those memos about drinking songs. Meanwhile I'm feeling a lot of slots with Bluegrass.
  • Leeann: Great news about Ricky Skaggs and Sharon White's duet album! Absolutely appalling about the Keith Urban concert!! Both the rape and …
  • bob: I found the Billboard article about country music radio needing an alcohol intervention interesting. Songwriter Adam Wright is quoted as …
  • Matt: Definitely agree with C.M. about Maddie & Tae. Certainly not the tidal wave of change some claimed it is or …

Recently Reviewed Albums

  • kelleymickwee
  • sandrarhodes
  • candi staton
  • sturgillsimpsonmetamodern
  • raypricebeautyis
  • rodneycrowelltarpapersky
  • rhondavincentonlyme
  • mandybgibson