Jackson Maine arrived far too early. When A Star Is Born was released in 2018, one of the biggest questions, at least among music fans, was who Bradley Cooper’s character was intended to be. Is that Eddie Vedder?

Followill, Caleb? We had this man singing haggard, world-weary country-rock, yet he was headlining festivals, appearing in gossip columns, and generating an immediate fuss when he wandered into a drag bar drunkenly. That person just did not exist in the current pop climate.

We now have a plethora of those men a few years later, with Zach Bryan at the top of the stack. Bryan isn’t quite ready to find Lady Gaga and convert her into a sensation by singing her song live. But at this pace, it won’t be long.

Nobody knew who Zach Bryan was in 2021. In his leisure time, he was serving in the Navy and making home-recorded country CDs, and he was forming a cult among roots-music fans. Bryan released his major-label debut, the mammoth triple-album data-dump American Heartbreak, in 2022, shortly after receiving his honorable discharge and signing with Warner.

It took flight. Bryan found himself presenting massive events to adoring hordes despite a lack of institutional backing — radio play, television appearances, tours with big-name musicians. American Heartbreak was certified platinum, and its most popular song, the grizzled “Something In The Orange,” a heartbroken lament, hit the top ten of the Hot 100. Bryan continued to release music throughout the year, including an EP, a live album, and a couple of standalone songs. That song kept resonating with me. It continued to reverberate.

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