Album Review: “A Hundred Highways” by Zach Williams
- The song hits hard with lap steel, banjo, horns, and a tube-crunched guitar that is like buttery syrup on warm pancakes.
Zach Williams A Hundred Highways, is an album about personal redemption. It reflects his journey back to God as proclaimed in the lyric, “… beauty from ashes, so come as you are,” from his track “Heart of God.” He has said, “It’s the most ‘Zach’ record I’ve made,” which is encouraging to hear in a world that thirsts for authenticity. It takes courage to be real, and Zach’s heartfelt testimony is a breath of fresh air.
The first track, “Big Tent Revival”, is a call to worship. The song hits hard with lap steel, banjo, horns, and a tube-crunched guitar that is like buttery syrup on warm pancakes. The song is an explosion of energy that starts the album on the right foot.
But Zach doesn’t keep this project in a box when it comes to music styles; “Sundays Coming” ends with an old gospel choir. “Heart of God” utilizes cinematic synths and a deep base to punctuate his reflections about the Creator. Farther down the track list, “Jesus Fault” goes full country with a six-eight swing that just feels good. Some of the songs are simple and some more complex, giving it wonderful variety.
Although rooted in southern rock, Zach branches out. With horns on some tracks, strings on others, big synth patches and an assortment of traditional instruments sprinkled throughout, Zach provides a lot to listen to. There is room in these tunes to take more musical chances, like a blazing harmonica solo, or some fiery guitar leads. Perhaps that is something we will see during live performances.
The production of this project is solid. The levels stay even so people won’t be reaching for the volume or EQ every few tracks. But there were noticeable variations in a few tunes. This may have been a stylistic choice given some specific genres. However, it resulted in some songs having great energy and punch, and others pulling up a little short.
That being said, it’s no wonder Zach has won two grammy awards and nominated for multiple others. His songwriting and vocals are exceptional. And it can’t be overstated how his authenticity, honesty, and openness about his prodigal son journey makes “A Hundred Highways” really stand out. If you strip everything else away and just hand Zach a guitar and a stool to sit on, the album still shines, because nothing can replace an honest man telling his story.
More: Just one word, Testify!
Less: It would be great to hear a live album to shave off some the backing instruments studio gloss.
More by Christopher Watson
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Christopher Watson is an author of six books, both fiction and non-fiction. He is also a musician and composer with a B.A. in Music from Azusa Pacific University. For several years Christopher led worship at The Springs Church while attending Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas Texas. He's been involved with worship in a number of churches in California and the Pacific Northwest both as a musician and in production and technology. Now he lives and writes in Washington State with his amazing wife, wonderful daughters, and highly intelligent dog, Ellie Mae.