Zac Brown Band: 10 Prime Hits

"Chicken Fried," "Free," "The Wind" Among CMT.com Staff Favorites

With a little bit of “Chicken Fried” and a whole lot of hit singles, the Zac Brown Band have become one of country music’s most accomplished groups. Whatever it is they dabble in, from memorable videos to tasty meals to eclectic music festivals, country fans won’t be walking away dissatisfied.

Here are 10 of their prime hits to keep in mind, courtesy of the CMT.com team.

“As She’s Walking Away” (Featuring Alan Jackson)
While I appreciated their jam band sensibilities from the first time I became aware of them, I have to confess I wasn’t sure where — or even if — the Zac Brown Band would manage to find a place in mainstream country music. And thank goodness they have. “As She’s Walking Away” is simply one of the best country records released in recent years. Brown and co-writer Wyatt Durrette excelled in combining the lyrics, melody and those subtle rhythmic changes. On one level, it sounds like something Alabama might have recorded in the early ’80s, but the originality of the band’s musicianship and stunning harmonies come through with every turn. Having Alan Jackson on board to sing as the voice of experience makes it even better. — Calvin Gilbert

“Chicken Fried”
Although the subject of “Chicken Fried” seems silly at first glance, it’s actually a deceptively smart song. Like “a pair of jeans that fit just right,” the special thing is its comfortable happiness. Brown himself is always interested in bringing people together, and being a former restaurant owner, he must have known that food would be an ideal place to start. So the first thing he brings up is a hot, home-cooked meal. When all the other things that make us happy — like cold beer, carefree children, a modest but loveable home — come pouring out, it’s nearly impossible not to feel grateful for it all. Strangers get a little friendlier and troubles start to float away. And all because of a silly line about America’s ultimate comfort dish. Pretty sly. — Chris Parton

“Colder Weather”
Up until I was 19, I braced myself for that same colder weather in Nebraska, where I grew up, and I bet I’ve stopped at that frozen truck stop just outside Lincoln a time or two. The melody of this song is just moody enough without being melodramatic, while the lyrics leave me feeling a little bit lonely. Even in the heat of a Nashville summer, “Colder Weather” takes me right back to those snowy, small-town days. I’ve heard Zac Brown say it’s one of his favorite songs he’s ever written, and I’d have to agree with him on that. — Craig Shelburne

“Free”
One of the most refreshing things about country music is its simplicity. A song doesn’t have to be long, complicated and overproduced to be a hit. Remember that whole “three chords and the truth” thing? Zac Brown and the boys played to that in “Free,” a nostalgic and straightforward love song about, well, simplicity. They paint an inspiring picture of road-tripping across the country full of romance and free from responsibility. It may not be the most elegant of love stories, what with the living-in-a-van aspect, but you can’t help but dig the “Into the Mystic” interlude. Call me a romantic, but the song makes you crave that simple and carefree feeling the guys sing about — van and all. — Bryan Rogala

“Highway 20 Ride”
Divorced fathers are not always the bad guys. Sometimes, actually, they are the very good guys who don’t really understand how they wound up doing this every-other-weekend thing. That’s why I knew I loved the Zac Brown Band’s “Highway 20 Ride” the minute Brown sings the line about how he counts the days and the miles back home to his son. And how we shouldn’t mistake him for a man (as well as a dad) who didn’t care at all. I get goose bumps during the fiddle solos. I love the harmonies. The melody makes me want to slow dance. But most importantly, this song makes me want every single father I know to tell his kids that his whole world “begins and end with you.” — Alison Bonaguro

“Keep Me in Mind”
In a word filled with instant results, “Keep Me in Mind” serves as a harmonious reminder that patience is a virtue. At first listen, the song seems like a fun jam session, but once you pay attention to the lyrics, the song becomes a not-so-subtle declaration of devotion. Not every woman could resist lyrics like these: “Keep me in mind/Somewhere down the road you might get lonely/Keep me in mind/And I pray someday that you will love me only.” Ladies, that’s not your average caliber of man. It’s a man who knows what he wants and realizes you’re well worth the wait. — Stephanie Pendergrass

“Knee Deep” (Featuring Jimmy Buffett)
There’s something special about being near the ocean, and there’s a special kind of music that goes with the feeling. It’s got to have a bit of a bounce and shuffle, just like motion of walking barefoot in the sand. The Zac Brown Band nail that feeling on “Knee Deep.” All about losing yourself at the edge of the sea, its happy little nylon-stringed guitar lick is soothing and exciting at the same time. It’s an earworm that’s easy to live with. And Jimmy Buffett’s verse about buying a boat and sailing away shows how his islander credibility has rubbed off on the band. — Chris Parton

“Toes”
When a person visualizes their dream destination, many will think about a sandy beach, a cold drink and their worries lost at sea. Perhaps this is why “Toes” quickly became a chart-topper and crowd favorite. The smooth beat and laid-back lyrics conjure images of water, sand, sun, beer and overall euphoria. Portraying the legend of Flody Boatwood, the music video takes the viewer through an array of adventures like winning the lottery (though only enough dough to buy beer), boats, beautiful senoritas and a high-speed chase featuring Kid Rock. And though the song does evoke stirring hallucinations of peaceful bliss, “Toes” does contain a real mantra that I try to remind myself of quite often: “Life is good today. Life is good today.” — Whitney Self

“Whatever It Is”
“Whatever It Is” possesses a simplicity and genuine honesty that makes it an ideal country song despite a more folk-sounding melody. Written by Brown and Wyatt Durrette, “Whatever It Is” captivated fans with uncomplicated lyrics like “She got a gentle way that puts me at ease/When she walks in the room I can hardly breathe.” It reminds me of the butterflies you get around somebody you really care about. Have you ever had just the right words ready to say, then they completely leave you? It’s a totally awestruck feeling, yet somehow the words that do come out are exactly what you needed to say. Often it is simply “I love you.” — Lacey Spears

“The Wind”
When you see Zac Brown Band in concert, it is immediately clear they’re a true ensemble. In other words, it’s not just a bunch of guys who play for Zac Brown. They always hit their groove as a true band. “The Wind” gives all of these talented pickers a chance to shine. However, it’s one of the few ZBB hits I don’t know all the words to, partly because he sings so fast, but also because I’m always so distracted by the hilarious cast of characters in the animated video. If that’s what the band’s Southern Ground music festivals are like, I’m definitely going. — Craig Shelburne