Zach Bryan - American Heartbreak Review

Back to Reviews


I am a programmer, I have very very little music experience outside of singing it in the car. I just like country music, and want to give my opinion on it.

Initial Thoughts

Zach Bryan’s album “American Heartbreak” released on the scheduled date of May 20th, 2022. It includes 34 tracks on the album, which is an outstanding undertaking compared to his other albums, and comes in at almost exactly 2 hours long. Some of the songs on the album were released as singles to generate hype leading up to the release, and some of them actually existed before the album was even announced.

I wasn’t super hyped about this album leading up to it, even though I love Zach Bryan, but that’s just not how I get when it comes to music releases. I couldn’t go to sleep the night it came out though, so I ended up listening to a few songs as soon as it came out anyway. Friday I listened to the full album throughout the day, and during the first listen nothing really stood out to me except a few choruses that I could only half remember. I was at work, so I was only halfway paying attention though.

My initial thoughts of it were pretty in line with what I was expecting. It sounded like a Zach Bryan album. That’s not to say that he’s becoming stale or anything, it’s been working for him and I really enjoy his music. There wasn’t anything surprising like I think Zach Bryan could’ve come out with. No rapping on this album, unfortunately. There was some autotune in there though for one song, but I’ll talk about that later.

I’ve been going back and listening to the lyrics a little harder, and this album really hasn’t disappointed me. There isn’t a song I dislike. There are some that I absolutely love and consider some of my favorite songs of all time, including one that literally almost makes me cry. Zach Bryan really is a great writer, his songs tell stories very well and draw you in so deep and get you singing like there is no tomorrow.

Individual Song Thoughts

  1. Late July

This has a certain twang with the banjo and a rhythm that I just really enjoy. I think it’s probably my favorite of the singles that was released (even though this was the one single I missed leading up to the album). The chorus is repeated 3 times and makes for easy singing. It’s mostly a song about wishes. Wishing well for his friends and family, wishing he was living with this girl and sleeping in on a lazy rainy morning. Overall a really good song.

  1. Something in the Orange

This song is good, I’ve listened to this one a lot before the album came out, so it’s kind of like an old toy for me at this point. I’ve also heard it a lot on social media prior to it even coming out as a single. It’s a song about longing for this person and not really being able to move on, which a lot of people can relate to. It’s definitely gonna be one of the more popular songs on the album, it’s number 3 on some list currently (maybe some billboard thing? I don’t know much about music charts), which is really awesome to see. It’s this large sounding song that is theatrical in a way, and definitely a good one to have under his belt as an artist.

  1. Heavy Eyes

This is much more upbeat than what I thought it was going to be based on the name, this song is REALLY fast. I was listening to an interview where Zach Bryan was saying how his band gave it all they had on this song, went out to dinner, came back and recorded it 4x faster. I think this is mostly meant to be a fun song that contrasts the title. They have heavy eyes, but they are going to keep going on and having fun and living. A lot of the verses in this song sound like things you’d say in a group of friends when you’re reminiscing. Literally “Remember when David dashed a twelve pack?”. Pretty catchy and gritty sounding song.

  1. Mine Again

Mine Again has been out for a long time now, its video was posted late 2020. I think this is one of the more personal songs that Zach Bryan included on the album. All the others probably have some truth in them, but this one seems deep and very close to home. It makes some references to substance abuse (as do his other songs), but on twitter he said the meaning was more of him getting out of a situation he wasn’t happy or healthy in. It’s a song about finding yourself again, and getting back on track. Really great meaning, and I think this is one of his better written songs.

  1. Happy Instead

This a great song, with a good story and a really good hook. It does this thing with the chorus that I’m noticing more and more in songs (it’s been in songs forever, I’m just starting to notice it more) where the chorus starts out meaning one thing or is meant for one character, but by the end of the song it means something else or is in reference to another character. Some examples of this is Tim McGraw’s “Don’t Take the Girl”, and Cal Smith’s “Country Bumpkin”. In this case his ex girlfriend is happy instead and he’s wishing he was dead ( has “wishing I was there” for the lyrics, but I’m 99% sure it’s “wishing I was dead” because that rhymes better). Then at the end he doesn’t even remember her when she calls, he’s happy instead, and she’s wishing she was dead. It’s a very happy sounding song, with morbid lyrics throughout.

  1. Right Now the Best

This one is a song about living in the moment and enjoying what you have. He brings up people who are looking too far into the future and looking at their maps all wrong, and grandpa who is too focused on the past. I like the meaning behind “The you of right now is the best”, where all he’s asking from this person is all he has at this very moment.

  1. The Outskirts

This song outlines basically my dream. I really like this song and the vision it gives me. He’s living out in the woods (outskirts) with a wife and a family. Very lighthearted and wanting sound, one of my favorite songs on this album.

  1. Younger Years

“Levi Jean Queen” is one of the most unique names I’ve heard for someone, I think it’s awesome. This is another party kinda song, with the impression that him and his friends have had a bunch of memories made, and are lucky to be alive in some cases. I really like the cadence of these lyrics, and how he says “Levi Jean Queen” in sections like “Le-vi Jean Queen”. It’s hard to do over a text medium, but it’s cool.

  1. Cold Damn Vampires

This song has been out the longest, the upload date on YouTube just narrowly beats Mine Again by a little over a month. It, like If She Wants a Cowboy, is kinda anti-establishment/show business. I’m sure that a bunch of people have stepped forward trying to offer him this and that on his journey in music, and he’s tried to hold his ground because many people have a vendetta against Nashville for turning country music into what it is now. Which, I’m all for, I hate cities, they’re pretty scummy and I generally don’t feel comfortable in them, and I don’t like a lot of newer country artists (though this problem really goes back to the 70’s and 80’s). I’ve never been to Nashville, but I would like to go one day (literally a day probably) just to say I’ve been though. The reason I say it’s also anti-establishment is because on there’s a quote from an interview where he says he wrote it because Verizon charged him too much for a bill.

Link to Genius’s lyrics

  1. Tishomingo

This is another song about wishing to be out of the city and back home, or somewhere familiar. This one’s cadence is really good too. I feel like this one could be a really fun one to sing at a concert, where the last chorus all the mics are cut off, it’s really catchy. There’s mention of a girl in New York in this song, and then mention of New York in the next song. I wouldn’t be surprised if the songs all link together in some way or another. There are a ton of references between some of the songs.

  1. She’s Alright

This is another really sad one after a couple of listens and looking up the lyrics. Zach Bryan’s mother passed away in 2016, and I think he’s singing about how she raised someone that a lot of people look up to, and look to through his music when they’re sad. He still feels a strong connection with her on his journey, and he feels like she’s proud of him and watching over him. I’m not 100% sure, but I think this has a voicemail clip from his mom at the end too. This isn’t the first time he’s written about her before, on his album DeAnn (named after his mother), he has a song called Sweet DeAnn which is another one of my favorite songs from him.

  1. You Are My Sunshine

This is the only cover that I know of on this album. I could imagine that there is some nostalgia attached to this song for Zach Bryan. This is a song that I heard a lot when I would go to my friend’s church growing up. This is my favorite rendition of this song I’ve heard. Simple and sweet cover, nothing fancy.

  1. Darling

This the one song I can remember getting caught in my head pretty quickly. “Hold me through the shakes” is fun to sing. Even though the shakes are probably referring to withdrawl symptoms from substance abuse. He makes these promises that if this girl will stay with him through his problems, she can up and leave, but he’ll still be hers to take. I’m not sure, but based on the second verse it sounds like she did up and leave him, which is sad but not something he wasn’t expecting. He’s unsure of how he can fix the relationship from here.

  1. Ninth Cloud

This one has more electric guitars than most of the others. This is a song mostly about going through hard times and coming out on the other side clean it seems. I may not be understanding the meaning completely, but it seems like he’s going back and forth between loving his vices and hating them. He understands they make him a wreck, but they’re a necessary step towards where he’s going.

  1. Oklahoma City

This is another one from 2020 (based on the upload date from YouTube), so it’s relatively old compared to the album. This one seems like he’s talking to himself almost from the perspective of someone who is from his hometown (Oklahoma city potentially being a stand in, I’m not sure where he’s from originally). This is a catchy song. Since it is older, the meaning may have changed for him since he originally wrote it. This friend seems like he’ll welcome him back, but he seems a little resentful. It sounds like the person is running from his problems more than dealing with them.

  1. Sun to Me

Everyone and their brother is probably gonna post their significant other to this one the coming weeks. This is such a sweet love song about how he’s found someone after all the dark times he’s been through. This girl brings out the best in him and he’s the girl she’s always prayed for. On this has the lyrics as “Sweetest of the sunflowers, how you’re the sun to me”, but I hear “Sweetest of the sunflowers, hell you’re the sun to me” which makes a little more sense to me, but it is a little hard to tell.

  1. Highway Boys

This was the second single I heard about after he announced the album. This one is about missing home it seems, and how things have generally changed since he’s been away from home making music and generally ramblin. My favorite lyric from this one is “Highways work both ways and I can’t stand the liars in town”. The violin in this one is really nice and gives it a good melody.

  1. Whiskey Fever

This song got a video right after the album came out which is some of the footage from the recording process. This one is another really fun one to sing, and I think is going to be one that is played at every show. It’s fast paced and another perfect example of a party song. Talking about bar fights, girls and whiskey. The words “Whiskey River” come up more than “Whiskey Fever”, but with Willie Nelson’s Whiskey River being a pretty popular song, he probably wanted to switch it up and have it be closer to the top of search results (just an observation, not sure if that’s true or not).

  1. Billy Stay

I didn’t sit down and read the lyrics for Billy Stay until a few days after my initial listen, and I kind of wish I hadn’t because I almost started crying. This song tears me up inside. From what I get out of this song, it’s from the perspective of a woman who’s husband is losing his fight with Alzheimer’s/Dementia and is remembering less and less, and she’s remembering times from their marriage. She keeps asking for him to stay, hoping he’ll remember more, but she understands he’s in bad shape and that maybe “the end is better”. He ends up passing away in his sleep with his final words being “I love you, goodbye”. She imagines his heaven is the times when they met and were in their younger years. I don’t even have any connection to anyone with Alzheimer’s/Dementia, but I literally can’t listen to it alone or I’ll burst into tears. This is a perfect example of the kind of story writer Zach Bryan is, he draws you in with such good stories.

  1. Sober Side of Sorry

This is another song that I’m not too sure of the meaning. It sounds like he got sober, but now he’s not (him being the character in the song). This one has been out for a while, and I really do like singing to it, but the message eludes me. The sober side of sorry could be that he was a jerk when he wasn’t sober and now he’s having to make amends, and pick up the pieces of his life, without the crutch of the substances he was abusing? I’m really not sure.

  1. High Beams

I don’t think there’s much meaning to this one apart from the lyrics. There isn’t much to this song. It’s pretty fun to sing, and it’s just talking about how he wants to take his girl out on the town and see how far they can go.

  1. The Good I’ll Do

The music to this one is slow and full of violin, the vocals belt out in some places, this is a really good one. He’s professing his love for this girl, and his appreciation for her loving and being proud of him. He’s happy wherever she’s at, and he frequently leaves his friends to go back home to her. He’s saying how he’ll keep doing better because she brings that out in him.

  1. Someday (Maggie’s)

This is another song that’s been out for quite a while. This is a song about always looking to the future, wishing for more and more. Then it switches to understanding what you do have and that, previously, the day you were looking for is here now. Originally this was called “Someday On My Mind”, but Zach Bryan decided to dedicate it to a fan named Maggie who unfortunately passed away at the age of only 18. She was a huge fan of his, and when she passed her mother reached out to Zach Bryan to let him know of the circumstances and how much he meant to Maggie. When he went to film the video for the song, he was going to eat breakfast with some friends and found the name Maggie out of all the spots he decided to sit at. You can believe in miracles or signs from beyond or not, but this was pretty special. This is the kind of song that gives you hope in yourself, and pride in what you’ve already accomplished.

Link to the article talking about Maggie

  1. Poems and Closing Time

This song sounds like it’s about finding solace in his girlfriend. He’s struggling with substance abuse because he’s so anxious, he’s having to lie to his friends about his mental state. He hates politicians and rich people because they think they’re so great, but reminds them that they aren’t good just because they have money. In a world that’s growing more and more evil, he’s finding less and less good things to be happy for. This is a darker song with a happy tune. Zach Bryan does these songs pretty well.

  1. From Austin

I had mixed feelings about From Austin when I first listened to it as a single. Something about the cadence in the lyrics and the outro section didn’t tickle my ears like some of the other songs did. I think the singles from this album were really just kind of middle of the road, and there are better songs on the album. Not saying this is a bad song, it is pretty good, I for sure couldn’t do better. This also has the paradigm where the chorus changes to give a different meaning. This is a very powerful song, that I can see people jamming to for a long while.

  1. If She Wants a Cowboy

This one made me sit up in my seat when I heard it for the first time, like it probably did for many people. As soon as the autotune came on, I was like “woooooooah, what is this? Zach NO”, and my heart skipped a beat. But it’s a troll. It’s a song pointing fun at Nashville artists and bro/stadium country. Kinda like Bo Burnham’s pandering, except less on the nose. This girl he’s after wants a “cowboy”, so he starts doing what a real cowboy (ranch man) does, like raising horses. Then he comes back, and he realizes really what she wants is a Nashville kinda fake cowboy.

  1. Corinthians (Proctor’s)

I think this one is a song about growing up and losing interest in the lifestyle he’s been living, just based on the lyric “Nothing fun happens after you turn 25”. It might also be about getting back to his religious upbringing, and finding his faith again. Originally I thought this was about a girl, but I think the person he’s thanking is Jesus. This is a pretty fun song to sing.

  1. Open the Gate

This was another single that was released leading up to the album. Zach Bryan’s full name is Zachary Lane Bryan, and according to Zach Bryan, he was named after the famous bull rider Lane Frost because his mother wanted him to be a professional bull rider. This is a very story driven song. The character is the son of a bull rider who passed away, and he’s come to try to do what his father couldn’t. His pregnant girlfriend is scared of him dying, but she knows he is gonna do it anyway. He ends up dying, and knows that his son will try to do what he couldn’t do, repeating the cycle a 3rd time (hopefully with better results).

  1. Half Grown

This song is about the feeling some people get where they don’t think they’re good enough, based on their upbringing. He knows he’s not in perfect condition, and that feeling of not being able to be loved stays around, but he’s actively fighting it and saying that you can choose to do better than the ones before you. It’s hard, but it’s the best road you can take. This is a really good and gritty song. He strains his voice in this way that jerks at your heart. The cadence also really pulls at you when it switches from quicker phrasings to long drawn out choruses.

  1. No Cure

This is one of the most fun songs to sing off the whole album. I really like the phrase “ramblin man”. When Zach Bryan uses it, it’s just as cool as if Waylong Jennings or Willie Nelson had said it. It’s a song about being 12 ft tall and bulletproof (a common southern phrase for being drunk enough to fight, or confident. See also, hard-headed.). The music for this one reminds me of horses running.

  1. ‘68 Fastback

This song is so sad. It’s a song about being used by someone, and giving them the best of you, just for them to up and leave. This person he’s talking about seems to use many people, so he isn’t even unique or special for this person. But after all this, it sounds like he’s found someone who really appreciates him and won’t leave when things get tough, and he won’t ever let this other person back in his life. This song feels really short because of the structure, but it’s so good.

  1. Blue

I heard this one a bunch on social media prior to the release. “Break me down, beat me blue. There ain’t a beauty on this planet coming close to you.”, except I think the lyrics might have changed slightly, so it was probably a teaser clip that I was hearing. He’s singing about this girl who he’s found where he’s happy with any time he gets to spend with her. He’s given himself totally over to her, and will let him use him however, and he’d be happy to just be involved. There’s a mandolin I think that keeps playing in the background that I really enjoy. This song is a really good one to begin closing the album out with, outstanding.

  1. Morning Time

This was one of the very first songs I actually grabbed onto and loved. It’s such a light but steady sounding song. The vocals start getting gritty and loud towards the chorus, which draws you in even more and just explodes. “I love you in the evenings, but I fucking hate high hopes” (chef’s kiss). 10/10, one of the best on the album, top 5 for sure, just go listen it.

  1. This Road I Know

This is a poem that goes back and forth with contradicting statements, but they contradict in a way that makes sense. Like they do when you have a dream. In a literal sense, he’s on his way to this house. In a figurative sense, in life, he doesn’t know where this road he’s on is taking him. This could be a representation of heaven, or the afterlife. He knows all the people who are there, but he doesn’t recognize them, so it could be that the friends and family who were in rough shape are now healed and have healthier appearances. Or it could be that you know someone in your dreams, but they aren’t the same or don’t look the same. This is a perfect way to end off the album, it’s soft and sweet, and open to interpretation I feel.

My top 3 favorite songs (not in any order), after about a week of listening, are Late July, Billy Stay and Morning Time. Every song brings a different story to the album, all have similar undertones, and it sounds like some could exist in the same story. Even though the record is very long, and some of the songs could have probably been left off, you’re able to listen to it a few times before you really start to get bored. I’ve been listening to it for a week now, and I haven’t gotten tired of it yet. It’s a large system that all intertwines and tells stories of love, loss, friendship, family, and everything that can be in between. He tried some experimental stuff like autotune, and more electric guitars, and it all worked pretty well. He’s already started releasing teasers for new songs, so it’s a potential that he left those off for the next album.

One of the most glaring issues I can see with this album isn’t what he included, but what he didn’t include. Where is Sunday Afternoon??? That’s mostly a joke, but I was actually really excited for a studio produced version of that song. Maybe next album, or an upcoming single. Though I don’t think he’ll top the version on YouTube currently.

Independent Country Industry

I think Zach Bryan is a great introduction into lesser known country music today, and with the popularity of this album, I only see him going up from here. This is great for many country artists in the same vein as him, and I can see them gaining a ton of traction as well from this album. Touring with, and promoting people like Charles Wesley Godwin, Nathaniel Rateliff, John Moreland, etc, will benefit them so much from this album. That being said, the album is obviously a HUGE win for Zach Bryan, he worked and lived hard for this album and it really really paid off. All the love and congratulations goes to him and his team. This is my favorite album of the year so far.

Back to Reviews