[Southern Ground]

The third release from these Southern jammers turned country-radio darlings is more board shorts and flip-flops than Wranglers and boots. Uncaged is a freewheeling summer soundtrack that draws more from Jimmy Buffett than George Strait. It’s also the seven-piece band’s most cohesive, and arguably best, record to date. A few new faces have been added to the mix, including Jason Mraz, who co-wrote the beachy album opener “Jump Right In.” Trombone Shorty contributes horns to the steamy slow jam “Overnight,” while Amos Lee joins Brown for “Day That I Die.” “The Wind” is a twangy romp that allows the band to show off its impressive picking skills and tight harmonies. A handful of more serious tunes, including “Sweet Annie” and “Lance’s Song,” provide Uncaged more depth than previous releases. Four years and two albums after bursting onto the country landscape, Zac Brown and company are at the top of their game. –Juli Thanki

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