Zac Brown Band’s Florida Road Trip

 

Zac Brown Band
w/ Kacey Musgraves & Keb’ Mo’
West Palm Beach, FL
May 31, 2014

The Zac Brown Band brought their American Road Trip Tour to South Florida this past week as they played to four enormous crowds, two in Tampa and two in West Palm Beach.  I was lucky enough to be in the Palm Beach area and caught Saturday’s show at the Cruzan Amphitheater.  My wife and I were fortunate to not only run into and speak to Zac at our hotel’s pool earlier that day, but were able to attend the “Eat & Greet” that ZBB and Chef Rusty put on for a handful of fans before each of their shows. 

We were served up some amazing pork, beef, coleslaw, corn and more as fans got to interact with all the bandmates.  This was my third eat and greet experience and each one has been a bit different, but always overly satisfying.  I got to spend some extended time speaking to Chris Fryar, the drummer for ZBB.  I have met a lot of people in the music business over the years, but Chris may have been the most down to earth and honest guy I have ever spoken with.  He really produced a sense of thankfulness for the fans, what he does for a living and the experiences he has been able to have due to the Band’s success. 

After the eat and greet, we arrived in the Pit just in time for Kacey Musgraves to hit the stage.  Kacey put forth a relaxed, yet quality set full of songs from her first album that has been critically acclaimed all year.  She is one of my favorite female artists and it was great to finally see her in front of a huge crowd (which, by the way, was one of the biggest I’ve ever seen for an Amphitheater setting). 

 
Kacey stuck to mostly her songs, but also broke out some fun covers, including a Latin-infused version of “Dance With You” by George Strait, in which she brought out Daniel De Los Reyes, from the Zac Brown Band to play the bongos.  She also covered Miranda Lambert’s “Mama’s Broken Heart” (which she had written) and Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” at the end of her own song, “Step Off”. 
 
 

When it came time for the main event, it was apparent that Zac and the boys really changed things up for this tour.  Everything from the setlist, the stage, big screens, and special effects were diligently conceived and masterfully executed.  And ZBB came flying out of the gate with “Devil Went Down to Georgia” and they never looked back. 

Zac, himself, seemed to be a bit different this time around.  As always, his vocals and instrumental focus was as good as anyone in the business, but he seemed a lot happier and interacted with the crowd a lot more.  He jumped into the crowd during the entire “Keep Me In Mind”, running around slapping everyone five.  Further, he was down on his knees thanking the crowd during “Colder Weather”.  It was great to see him so happy and interactive. 

 
As any ZBB concert-goer knows, you will never hear the same setlist twice, a real salute to the musicianship that they are dedicated to.  On this night hits such as “Toes”, “Goodbye In Her Eyes” and “As She’s Walking Away” were performed, but non-album cuts and numerous covers as well.  At one point, during an acoustic portion, Zac told the crowd he got an e-mail from Billy Joel saying he wanted to do a song with him at their run of Fenway Park shows, and then they performed a stirring version of “Piano Man”.  Clay Cook took the vocals for Foo Fighters’ “Times Like These” and John Hopkins for Metallica’s “Enter the Sandman” during the encore.  When seeing the Zac Brown Band live, you must expect the unexpected”.  In fact, the famed blues artist, Keb’ Mo’ sat in the band at two separate times during the night for some nasty funk that had the crowd dancing to a different, yet welcomed beat. 

 
To some, ZBB is best known for “Chicken Fried” and it was unusual for me to hear this song smack in the middle of their set, instead of the usually placement at the end of the night (again, the unexpected).  And during the patriotic verse of the song, a member of the military came out to salute the crowd in unison with the lyrics.  It was chilling to see the response of the soldier’s face letting out a sigh of emotion as he walked off the stage, which was captured on the giant screens. 
 

 
The real highlight, for me, was after a ten minute intermission, the Band came back to a lighting and rain storm created by special effects as they performed a bombastic version of “Let It Rain” from the Grohl Sessions, Vol. I Ep.  The effects seen during this song rival anything I’ve ever seen at any other concert and I cannot wait to see it in a Stadium show later this summer. 
 
 
The encore of the night did not disappoint in the least either.  Dressed in glow-in-the-dark outfits and intricate masks, ZBB blasted into “Day of the Dead”, “Enter the Sandman” and Tom Petty’s “Running Down A Dream”.  The band members almost morphed into these creatures on stage and the whole feeling was one of intrique.  Amazing dedication down to last detail. 
 
 

 
 
 
I will say it once, if not a thousand times, there is no band, country or otherwise, that is quite like the Zac Brown Band.  Whether it comes to the instrumentals, song selection, or overall quality of what you see and hear, no one quite compares, for my money.  The Great American Road Trip Tour will seemingly be everywhere this summer, from Amphitheaters to Stadiums alike.  This is one, that no music fan should miss. 

 
 

SETLIST:

Zac Brown Band

  1. Devil Went Down to GA (Charlie Daniels Band Cover)
  2. Knee Deep
  3. As She’s Walking Away
  4. Goodbye In Her Eyes
  5.  Times Like These (Foo Fighters Cover)
  6. Different Kind of Fine
  7. Uncaged
  8. Grandma’s Hands with Keb’ Mo’
  9. Keep Me In Mind
  10. The Muse
  11. Chicken Fried
  12. You Never Even Call Me By My Name (David Allen Coe Cover)
  13. Am I Wrong with Keb’ Mo’
  14. Piano Man (Billy Joel Cover)
  15. Seven Bridges Road (The Eagles Cover)
  16. Let It Rain
  17. Highway 20 Ride
  18. Sic’ Em’ On A Chicken
  19. Isn’t She Lovely/Neon
  20. No Hurry
  21. The Wind
  22. Colder Weather
  23. Toes
  24. Day For the Dead
  25. Enter the Sandman (Metallica Cover)
  26. Running Down a Dream (Tom Petty Cover)

Kacey Musgraves

  1. The Trailer Song
  2. Blowing Smoke
  3. Stupid
  4. Dance With You with Daniel De Los Reyes (George Strait Cover)
  5. Mama’s Broken Heart
  6. Keep It To Yourself
  7. Merry Go Round
  8. Step Off/3 Little Birds
  9. Follow Your Arrow
  10. My House

John Driskell Hopkins and Balsam Range – “Daylight”: Track by Track Dissection (plus an interview with John Driskell Hopkins)

Track by Track Dissection
John Driskell Hopkins and Balsam Range – “Daylight”

John Driskell Hopkins, founding member of the Grammy Award Winning Zac Brown Band, got together with Bluegrass specialists, Balsam Range to create “Daylight”.  It is mainly a bluegrass album which incorporates shades of country, folk, rock, and roots music.  Balsam Range, an award winning band in their own right, consists of Caleb Smith, Marc Pruett, Buddy Melton, Tim Surrett, and Darren Nicholson. 

I found the album to be a beautiful listening experience with unique blends of harmony and a display of true skillmanship, intrumentally. What follows is a track by track review of what I heard and felt when listening to each of the songs.  I was also able to speak with John over the phone about this project and our conversation is listed after the review.  I urge all with able ears to get a copy of Daylight.  The exceptional vocal abilities of John really shine as his deep, profound voice pump passion to each and every track. 

1. Runaway Train  (Featuring Jerry Douglas)

The album starts out with John’s voice mimicking a train and some simple guitar picking.  What follows is bombastic first song which takes listeners inside the mind of man who seems to be completely out of control in his life.  “Runaway Train” is a rollicking ride of emotions sung with passion and, at times, controlled anger.  Musically, the guitars use a bit of slap throughout which add to the dramatic tone of the song. 


2. I Will Lay Me Down (Featuring Zac Brown)

This, as a big Zac Brown Band fan, was a true highlight.  The melody of the track is absolutely beautiful with all instruments connecting, tied together with a skilled rift.  John sings of not having a problem passing away happy, as long as he has lived a complete life.  Zac Brown adds his star vocals, harmonizing with John, as well as a solo verse.  The storyline, the instruments, and the harmonizes produce a masterfully executed track.  It was also refreshing to see two members of the Grammy Award Winning Zac Brown Band step outside of their normal country music setting and take on a true Bluegrass song. 




3. Daylight (Featuring Tony Trischka)

The title track takes on a more country vibe as it has a charming feel to a simple  love song.  John sings about a man who knows he must find a way to see through all of life’s problems to see how to truly find love.  The guitar work on the song really shines with several competing rifts and melodies meshed together to produce a beautiful tune. 


4. Nothing

The banjo is the star of this song as my ear constantly heard the instrument stand out above all others.  The song seems to be about a man who is very relieved that his woman has broken up with him.  What starts off somewhat solemn becomes a happy tune of a thankful man.  While the banjo is prominent, you can hear the immense skill of Balsam Range as all instruments again combine to a comforting combination. 

5. Bye Baby Goodbye (Featuring Joey + Rory)

John’s vocals are never better on the album as he is able to show how he can impressively hit both low and high octaves.  Country duo, Joey + Rory, add their skills to the song as a guest feature.  Joey and John trade bars within the song and, at times, harmonize together, singing words of a mutual break-up.  The song is more about the vocals than the instruments, which is rare on the “Daylight” album, yet effective nonetheless.

6. She Don’t Love Me Today

A light-hearted and humorous tune which has a fast tempo throughout.  The song’s basic message is how a man and woman can love each other unconditionally, but, at times, can be at each other’s throats.  John sings of how much he loves his woman, but how has done something stupid and is paying for it at home.  The banjo, played by Marc Pruett, is again very prominent throughout this witty song.
 

7. Be My Girl

A slow, soulful song which is more country than Bluegrass.  John’s delivery really makes the track work, specifically how he holds the last note of “girl” in the chorus.  It’s a beautiful set up where a man is describing what he has envisioned if she would agree to be with him.  The Band uses complex and extremely skilled sheet-music throughout this entire album, yet they keep it relatively simple on this track, and it worked perfectly. 

8. The Devil Lives in a Mason Jar

This is another track where John and the boys get to flex their muscles and sing with ripe passion.  As the song plays it builds with a sense of anger and mystery.  The message of the song of how, when this man drinks alcohol, he becomes a different, more devilish person.  John has a unique way of sounding possessed when he wants to and this song showcases that.

9. How Could I? (Featuring Levi Lowrey)

This song takes more of a folk song than any other.  Levi Lowrey is a song-writer who seems to create songs with a dark and poignsnt feel to them.  The man in the song is disgusted with himself for taking certain things for granted.  The harmonization of Levi with John was simple, yet effective. 

10.  It’s Not Ok

This is a remake of the song off of the Triple Platinum Zac Brown Band album “The Foundation”.  Daylight’s version is much more bluegrassy and a fresh take on a fan favorite song.  I have seen John take lead vocals on this tune various times at a ZBB show.  I found it entertaining that Balsam Range took it upon themselves to pay homage to the original while putting their own stamp on it.  Pruett’s banjo is the biggest difference between the original and this version. 

11.  The Grass Don’t Get No Greener

This track had me on my toes at all times.  It starts off with an almost show-tune type of feel, but John comes in with some thunderous vocals, followed with various other members of Balsam Range singing for the first time all album.  The tempo is unbelievably fast at some points, and slow and controlled at others.  Quite the musical kitchen sink. 

12. DJ

This is a song I can play over and over again.  The voice freestyling displayed by John is so unique in today’s music.  The voice modulations mirrored the instruments as the band frolics through the song with mastery.  I dare you to listen to this song and not have phrase “diggity-da-boom” running through your head the rest of the day. 

13. Shady Bald Breakdown

An instrumental track (besides some freestyling by John towards the end) which shows how immensly talented  Caleb Smith, Marc Pruett, Buddy Melton, Tim Surrett, Darren Nicholson, and John Driskell Hopkins are.  Fast paced, intense, and exquisite are all terms that came to my mind while listening to this song.  It is a perfect ending to superb album, as no words are needed to depict the mastery behind this collaborative project. 

A MTS EXCLUSIVE
 *A Conversation with John Driskell Hopkins*
 
Q: How did you get together with Balsam Range?
 
A: Well, I am a fan.  I listen to them on radio and I listen to a lot of Bluegrass radio where ever I go.  Whenever I need my fix, I have my collection with me because I love Bluegrass music.  They (Balsam Range) are on the radio, they have four albums plus had song of the year back on their last record.  These guys are amazing, not only are they accomplished in the genre, but when you listen to them you realize there is something different about these guys.  Their song choices are very heartfelt and they’ve got a more modern feel but they way they get after music is very traditional at the same time.  They are just amazing and there is something different about Balsam Range that sets them apart to me.  I found their website and e-mailed them asking if they were interested in making the record. 
 
Q: How long did you all work on the record together?
A: It was in the middle of 2011 that we met and got together.  Over the next year we played some gigs together and talked about how we would pursue the record.  Of course I was a bit busy with you fans, but eight months later in February of 2012 we got in the studio.  We made the record back in North Carolina and finished it all over the southeast in Florida, and over here at my house and mixed it in Nashville.  We got done in August and the hard release was in October for our shows.  We then did a radio release in January.
 
Q: The one thing that stood out to me was your style on DJ and Shady Bald Breakdown.  How do you describe that style?
A: It something I learned from my early college days from some artists you have heard over the years, as well as in historical jazz music.  It is singing without words, freestyling.  It is like solo’ing, really.  My instrumental chops are strongest in my throat. I’ve always tried to embrace that.
Q: I have seen you do everything from “Baby Got Back” to “Enter the Sandman” at live shows.  Is there any type of genre you won’t try?
A: No! With us there are no rules. 
 
Q: What type of music to you grow up listening to?  What would you say your roots are in?
A: Well I have always listened to pop radio and have been affected by country in my decisioning.  We also grew up on Church music and spent a lot of time in the mountains.  We were exposed to lots of different styles.  And radio became a big part of my musical experience.  I loved Journey and big vocal harmonies like that.  When I got older I got into U2 and R.E.M. and later Pearl Jam, as well as Marty Robbins.  I love rich sounding artists.  It’s been a long list of artists.  I’ve been attracted to good music, no matter what it is.  I never went country and stayed country, or went rock and stayed rock. 
 
Q: I guess that why you and Zac blend so well.  As in your last ZBB album you had Island Song and Overnight, two non-traditional country songs. 
A: All of us in that band are alike in that respect.  We all appreciate and write different styles and want to play different styles.  Bluegrass to me is a wonderful marriage of country and folk and I’ve always been an acoustic guitar player.  Then I learned the bass guitar and that’s what I mainly play in the Zac Brown Band and I think that was a good choice for me which fits great.
 
Q: How many instruments can you play?
A: Well, I can play a few.  I am proficient on the bass and that’s it.  My guitar playing is decent.  I’m learning how to play the banjo.  I love them all.  I know a few chords on the madolin.  As far as when I sit down to sing a song with the intrument, yeah, give me a few minutes and I can put it together.  It’s just what musicians do.  As far as the guys in Balsam Range, they are far more proficient on their instruments than I.  But as my dad always said, surround yourself with people that are better than you and that is a way of proving yourself. 
 
Q: The banjo player, Marc Pruett, really stands out on the album. 
A: The world famous, Grammy Award winning, Marc Pruett.  He is the real deal and all the guys in Balsam Range are like that.  Being able to hang with them has been a real joy for me.
 
Q: They are playing the Opry next month, correct?
A: Yes, we are.  I will be with them.
 
Q: Any chance you can tell me what songs you will be playing at the Opry?
A: Well, I am pretty sure we will sing “I Will Lay Me Down”.  Not sure about the other as we were given two songs.  It will either be “She Don’t Love Me Today” or “Runaway Train”, just not sure yet.  “I Will Lay Me Down” is our strongest tune and we want to play that for sure.  The other choices are will we knock it off the rails or take it straight down the pike.  Either choice is going to be great for me, but I haven’t decided yet. 
 
Q: Any chance we see Balsam Range on the road with ZBB in the future?
A: I’d love to.  Whenever they are around I’d love to have them in.  It puts a lot of us on stage together but its cool with me and cool with Zac.  We had a good time with them all the other night.  But with schedules it is hard coordinate.  It’s quite the commitment and I have to be sensitive to them.
 
Q: We would love to have you in the greater New York City/Tri-State area.  When I saw you with ZBB at Madison Square Garden the atmosphere was electric.  What were your feelings that night?
A: That was a big night for us.  Getting to play Madison Square Garden is maybe the biggest venue ever.  You know, its like the golden ring.  I’d love to bring Balsam Range up there with us at some point.
 
Q: I saw you guys will be at the Grammy Awards this weekend and you are nominated.
A: Yes and Zac will be on stage doing a Levon Helm tribute with some other artists.  Whatever you have read is as much as I know there. 
 
Q: Thank you for your time and continued success with all your music projects.
A:  Thanks man, and I hope this album will be well received for a long time. 

Zac Brown Band’s Bucket List Moment at Madison Square Garden

Zac Brown Band
Madison Square Garden
November 17, 2012
w/ Blackberry Smoke & Levi Lowrey
 

There are not many venues in the World that bring about an immediate sense of excitement.  Madison Square Garden is absolutely one of them.    On November 17, 2012, the Zac Brown Band displayed an amplified version of themselves as their performance was one of passion, talent, and excellence.  I can honestly say it was the best country music concert I have ever seen. 

After short sets from Blackberry Smoke and Levi Lowrey, two acts that Zac has signed to his Southern Ground Record label, the crowd’s energy began to grow each second.  The headliners were streamed live on Fuse TV and HD Camera’s were out in full force.  As the giant white screen that covered the stage displayed a ten second countdown, the screams, clapping, and cheering from the hyped up crowd was at a defeaning level.  The white sheet dropped and the Band ripped right into their #1 hit “Keep  Me in Mind”.

The setlist was perfectly planned out, with a rollercoaster feel of fast, upbeat songs to emotional ballads and masterful covers of epic songs.  A few songs in, during “Colder Weather”, Zac took off by himself to the middle of the catwalk and looked up at the crowd and around the sold out arena as he sang the powerful lyrics.  It was clear to all that Zac could not hold back his emotion as tears began to roll from down his eyes.  It was a powerful moment for a fan like me and it was clear that Zac understood the moment.

Most of the Band’s hits were played that night as “Toes”, “Free”, “The Wind” and “Kneep Deep” were instant sing-a-longs.  There were songs where each Band Member  showcased their jam-band skills.  “Who Knows” became a fifteen minute jam out and “Uncaged” was an all out Southern Rock Jam.  Zac indicated that he needed to make a new Bucket List because headlining the Garden was at the top of his current list.   

There was even an acoustic set where the Band sat on crates and barrels at the front of the catwalk as they played a new song called “One Day”‘ and covered “All Apologies” by Nirvana and “Sweet Emotion” by Aerosmith.  Combine that set with the cover of Metallica’s “Enter the Sandman” during the bombastic encore and I challenge you to find me another band, be it in country music or any other genre, with the range to be able to pull off each of those classics without a flaw.

At one point, Zac’s father surprised  him on stage during “Highway 20 Ride” as they shared an emotional hug.  There was a drum off between Chris Fryar and Daniel De Los Reyes.  Jimmy D’Martini ripped out fiddle solos that had people shaking their heads in amazement.  Clay Cook took over vocals on “Can’t You See”‘ and took over the catwalk on several amazing electric guitar rifts with the charisma that only he contains.  Coy Bowles and John Hopkins switched instruments from guitars, Cellos, mandolins, to steel guitars.  There was not a second where each Band member wasn’t a key part of the act, each equipped with immense skill and musical talent. 

Of course the night ended with the biggest hit of the Band’s career thus far, “Chicken Fried”.  The entire crowd exploded as the Band played the megahit with grace, passion and pride. The crowd danced and sang with sheer happiness.  Zac and the Band took a bow and thanked the crowd.  After the two plus hour set, I found myself more satisfied with a live concert performance than ever before. 

 

I saw ZBB for the first time, in February 2009, when they were a relatively unknown Band playing the small Bowery Ballroom in NYC. I was there a year later when they upgraded to Terminal 5, a ballroom sized venue in the City. Last summer, I was there at Metlife Stadium when they served as the opening act on Kenny Chesney’s Stadium tour. But Zac understood this moment, he understood what it meant to headline at Madison Square Garden.  During “Colder Weather” he showed the emotion and the entire Band responded with an epic performance sure to be talked about for years to come.  I’m sure everyone hopes they return to the Garden year after year.  I just don’t know how another show can ever compare to his one.  #ZBBMSG lived up to the hype and much more.

SETLIST:

  1. Keep Me In Mind
  2. As She’s Walking Away
  3. Uncaged
  4. The Wind
  5. Colder Weather
  6. Natural Disaster
  7. Toes
  8. Goodbye In Her Eyes
  9. Who Knows
  10. The Problem with Freedom (w/ Levi Lowrey)
  11. All  Apologies (Nirvana Cover)
  12. One Day
  13. Sweet Emotion (Aerosmith  Cover)
  14. Fiddle Intro into Free
  15. Free
  16. Into the Mystic (Van Morrison Cover)
  17. Whiskey’s Gone
  18. Can’t You See (Marshall Tucker Band Cover with Blackberry Smoke)
  19. Knee Deep
  20. Highway 20 Ride
  21. Devil Went Down To Georgia (Charlie Daniels Band Cover)
  22. Percussion/Drum Solo (with Massif)
  23. Jump Right In (Encore)
  24. Enter the Sandman (Encore – Metallica Cover)
  25. America The Beautiful (Encore)
  26. Chicken Fried (Encore)

Zac Brown Band: Uncaged – Track by Track Dissection

Zac Brown Band – Uncaged
Track by Track Dissection

I do not want to describe this post as a review.  I have too much respect for the Zac Brown Band to “review” their music.  This blog post is more of a dissection of each of the tracks by a fan who already had great admiration for the talents of each of the Band members.  I must say I had high expectations for this album before I even listened to it – and it surpassed those expectations and more.  Here are my thoughts about each of the tracks as I listened to the album:

1. Jump Right In

The name speaks for itself on the first track of Zac Brown Band’s third album, “Uncaged” as the band jumps right into the hit making music that they have become famous for.  “Jump Right In” starts off with a short yet effective intro highlighted by the infamous Zac Brown guitar picking along with a few whistles and bongos, courtesy of new member Daniel de los Reyes.  But after about ten or so seconds, the whole Band gets involved to create a musical explosion.  The song has the inner linings of the country music jam band that the ZBB are, but with a commercial appeal that could easily make the song yet another #1 on the Country Music Charts.  The song has lyrics that will stick in your head all day long: “…you can jump right in, let music pull in you in, you can jump right in…it’s the Southern Wind, sings again, an idle lullaby“.

2. Uncaged

Uncaged lets the Band showcase their southern rock side as the song includes a multitude of guitar licks, drum bashing, and all out jam outs alongside the powerful Zac Brown voice.  I can easily see this song becoming one of those songs that the Band goes nuts on for about ten minutes in their live shows as the song is more about the musical instruments than the lyrics.  The euphoria of the seven ridiculously talented members showcase why the Band is truly on a different level than any Band in any genre in today’s music.

3. Goodbye In Her Eyes

This song may go on to become the most successful song, commercially, off of this album.  It is an epic story of a man who knows the woman who he loves so much is leaving him and he cannot do anything about it.  The song unfolds with the lyrics painting a vivid picture that could almost be the summation to a sad romantic movie.  Zac is never better as he hits low and high octaves with ease and the Band gets to sing background vocals as a unit, more so than any song I’ve heard from them before.  Furthermore, it is the first song on this album that fans get to hear the immense talent of Jimmy De Martini on the fiddle.  Overall, this song is sad, beautiful, and powerful all at once. 

4. The Wind

The first single released to country music is ZBB’s ode to bluegrass music.  The picking and strumming of the guitars as well as the rapid fire fiddle and quick moving vocals create a song that I challenge anyone to not want to at least tap their foot to, if not get up and dance to.  After just a few short weeks it is already in the top 20 on the country charts and moving quickly up from there.  The Band just released a unique, animated music video to the song which can be seen here: 

5. Island Song

For me, this was the absolute stand-out song on the album.  It is a reggae song more than it is a country song.  But for all intensive purposes, Zac may have created a new genre of music with his reggae-country masterpiece.  The lyrics immediately take you to a place “down in the islands, down in the islands”.  Zac’s reggae delivery is that of perfection.  I had heard him sing in this style before at a few of his past shows, but he really nails it in this song.  I found myself daydreaming as he sings about drinking rum at a tiki bar down in the islands.  ZBB has always had a beach themed song on each of their albums, whether it be “Toes”, “Knee Deep” or “Where the Boat Leaves From”, but this track takes that theme to a whole new level. 

6. Sweet Annie

Musically, this song reminds me a lot of “Colder Weather” as it gradually builds from a soft melody to a power ballad.  The lyrics depict a man who has seemingly let everyone down in his life and he is pleading with a woman Annie to not give up on him and to give him another chance.  He starts out defeated, but by the last verse he seems to gain more confidence in himself and makes his plea to let him stay with her.  It is another sad yet beautiful ballad that portrays the pain that love can have on a man. 

7. Natural Disaster

Another very unique song which starts out with a forty second acapella intro singing about a preacher’s daughter when all of the sudden the pace of the song picks up tremendously.  It becomes a rolling country song that has beautiful lyrics about a woman who the man knows may bad for him, but cannot stop himself from loving her.  The vocals pick up in pace as the song goes and creates a very effective song in which both the lyrics and the melody are equally phenomenal: “She’s like rain when she rolls in, but there’s sunshine in her thunder, it makes the loneliest heart wonder if the ride is worth the pain”. 

8. Overnight (Featuring Trombone Shorty)

Simply put, I was not expecting this song when it came on.  It is, in no way, a country song.  It is a flat out R&B song.  That being said, Zac showcases the unbelievable depth of his talent.  His delivery alongside the blues guitar, trumpet and trombone and that are featured in the song make this song, by far and away, the most unique that I have heard from ZBB.  It is smooth, sexy and totally out of the box.  Zac is definitely not afraid to do things his own way and he does not disappoint with his track. 

9. Lance’s Song

I need to learn the real meaning behind this song, but it is clearly dedicated to a musician who has passed away.  The lyrics tell a story about a man who obviously lived his life engulfed in music, but apparently was not given the credit and respect he deserved until he passed away.  Zac sings, with love and pain in his voice:  “But they don’t know what they got, until its gone, like it or not.  You live on life, you try to do what’s right, we’re all here a-waiting for our silver invitation to the big band in the sky”. It is a beautiful dedication to someone the ZBB obviously admired. 

10.  Day That I Die (featuring Amos Lee)

This, for me, was yet another stand-out on the album.  When I first heard this song, I thought to myself that Zac Brown has probably never been more truthful in his songwriting than in this song.  When he states that “I believe that I was born with a song inside of me” and “when I live out my days and to the very end, I hope find they find me in my home with my guitar in my hands” I know he is being competely honest.  While I always give full credit to ZBB as a Band and completely respect each Band Member’s outstanding talents, this song is all about Zac and his dedication to music.  Amos Lee is feautured on the track and his verse echoes what Zac is saying.  Throughout this masterpiece you can hear the honesty that both artists are singing about.  It’s very hard to think about your life, your legacy, and how you spend the last moments of your life.  Zac has figured it out.  I found myself getting goosebumps while listening to his sincerity. 

11. Last But Not Least

A simple song about a man letting his woman know that he loves her and that she is important to him.  Charismatic Clay Cook adds his vocals to the middle verse as he and Zac make it known to the woman they are with that they may have been their last love, but that it is the one that means the most because they will end up wit her.  The song also works well as it was undoubtedly strategically placed as the last song of the album. 

Top Picks: Island Song, Day That I Die, Goodbye In Her Eyes, Jump Right In

Zac Brown Band Lights Up Nashville

Zac Brown Band
w/ Nic Cowan, Sonia Leigh,
Sarah Dugas, and Arnold McCuller
December 30, 2011

Bridgestone Arena
Nashville, TN

I attended the Zac Brown Band concert in Nashville, TN this past week.  It was my first time and first night in Nashville and everyone seemed to be just as excited as I was.  Honky Tonk Row aka Broadway was jumping with people for hours before the show and you could feel the energy oozing up and down the block.  Bridgestone Arena is a massive building, as far as Arenas are concerned, and the inside appeared to be very clean and well thought out.  I made my way down to the floor level where the show had a General Admission Pit. 

I walked into sounds of the initial opening act, Sarah Dugas and was a bit confused about what I heard. She at first was not singing in English, then proceeded to belt out sounds, not words, in a high octave that made myself and others around me cringe. I was happy only to hear a few songs by her and will certainly pass on her in the future. To my surprise, Mac McAnally, the Grammy and CMA Award Winner, was in crowd next to me.  I spoke to him for a few minutes and, at one point, he stated “well you are in for a great show, the guys are really talented”.  He was humble, gracious, and allowed a few fans to take pictures with him right there on the floor. 

The next two opening acts up’d the ante from the rocky start and the night finally was on its way.  Nic Cowan performed his funky Country/Americana songs: “Hard-Headed”, “Woke Up This Morning”, and “Cut It Loose” and he had the crowd dancing throughout.  I have really enjoyed Nic’s music and was hoping for a longer set than just four songs, but he did perform a new single that has a lot of promise.  Sonia Leigh was next and she came out with high energy right away.  She is a very unorthodox female singer who is way more Americana than Country, but it works for her.  “Money” and “Bar” are catchy songs and she has a passion for her songs.  I do not think she will ever be a regular on country radio, but her fans could care less. 

It was finally time for the main event and the extravagant stage illuminated with stars, lights and lazers and the Zac Brown Band jumped into their newest #1 smash hit, “Keep Me In Mind” and never looked back.  I have seen ZBB over seven times and they keep getting better and better.  No setlist has ever been the same and each show has new surprises. 

I was half expecting Alan Jackson to show up for “As She’s Walking Away” since we were in Nashville, but when he didn’t it did not bother me all that much.  Especially since they followed up those first two #1’s with their rendition of Charlie Daniel’s “The Devil Went Down To Georgia”.  Excuse me for saying this, and I may get hate mail for it, but I think Zac and the boys’ version is better than the original.  Jimmy De Martini is an absolute master with the fiddle.  That, and the intensity and skill the other members of the band play their instruments with make that song a must at each ZBB show. 

For the first time since I have seen them live, Zac added two new band members to the stage.  One  was a saxophonist that resembled Justin Bieber and another was a bongo player who later on had a “drum-off” with ZBB’s Chris Fryar.  Both were highly skilled and really added a new flavor to the already overly talented Zac Brown Band. 

The setlist flowed perfectly with #1 hits and deeper cuts off the Band’s two albums in which all the fans in the sold out arena seemed to know word for word.  There were several songs that were meshed with other classics, such as “Free” mashed with “Into the Mystic” and “Where The Boat Leaves From” and some Bob Marley classics.  One highlight was when “Isn’t She Lovely” was mashed up with John Mayer’s “Neon”.  If I thought Jimmy De Martini was amazing on their earlier Charlie Daniels rendition, he showcased his ridiculous talent even more on a spellbinding fiddle solo on “Neon”. 

Zac brought out Sarah Dugas along with soul/R&B singer, Arnold McCullen for a cover of “Use Me”.  ZBB let Arnold and Sarah handle the vocals and Zac really seemed to be enjoying himself during the funky song.  This song was suprisingly followed up by a cover of hip-hop group Outkast’s “So Fresh and So Clean”.  That is the real beauty of the Zac Brown Band, their range of songs are unlike anyone in the business.  I have seen them cover songs from Pink Floyd, Outkast, Sir Mix A Lot, to Tom Petty, Alabama, and Rage Against the Machine. 

The stage for this tour was much more extravagant than the recent tours.  It had rotating and moving spotlights as well interactive screens that changed colors and showcased live images of each of the Band members. 

The Encore began with the drum-off that I spoke of earlier and was followed up with a masterful version of “Can’t You See” with Band member, Clay Cook, on vocals.  He too has a wonderful voice and really put his all into this song.  The whole crowd responded with applause and their voices back. 

The Nashville crowd exploded during the next few songs.  First was “Colder Weather”, arguably the Band’s most successful single, to date.  Bridgestone Arena sang along to the song word for word and Zac’s voice was never better.  I heard reports that Zac was sick during the show and needed an emergency shot of antibotics before the concert.  I would have never known unless for those reports because, to me, his voice was as clear and strong as ever. 

Lastly was a mashup of “America. The Beautiful” with “Chicken Fried”.  The two songs flow so well together and the whole crowd went crazy during the chorus of the latter.  Zac and the boys ended the song with a jam-out in which each member had a short solo.  Zac finished and stated to the crowd in a loud, booming and passionate voice: “I know a lot of you have seen us at Awards shows lately and we have come up empty handed. But we do not judge our success by those Awards, it is by this right here – you the fans! And as long as you guys keep coming out and filling up these Arenas for our shows, I guarantee we will be here in 20 years still doing this for you. So thank you Nashville!”. It was powerful and obviously truthful statement in which Zac really exclaimed with passion. 

The show was incredible and everyone walked away completely entertained and extremely satisfied.  As the Nashville crowd walked out of the Arena and right onto Honky Tonk Row, they knew that in twenty years they would indeed be seeing Zac and the boys again, because this Band is not going anywhere but the top. 

Setlist:
1. Keep Me In Mind
2. As She’s Walking Away
3. Devil Went Down To Georgia
4. Free
5. Into The Mystic
6. Where The Boat Leaves From
7. Islands In The Stream
8. Jolene
9. Highway 20 Ride
10. Not Okay
11. Who Knows
12. Knee Deep
13. Whiskey’s Gone
14. Use Me (with Sarah Dugas and Arnold McCullen)
15. So Fresh and So Clean
16. Sic Em On A Chicken
17. Isn’t She Lovely
18. Neon
19. Make This Day (with Mastiff)

ENCORE

20. Drum Solo’s by Chris Fryar
21. Can’t You See with vocals by Clay Cook
22. Colder Weather
23. America The Beautiful
24. Chicken Fried