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05/29/2008

Zac Brown growing Lowcountry fan base

When I headed out to the Windjammer on Sunday night, it was to relax and have a couple of beverages with friends to enjoy the Memorial Day weekend.

I had heard things about the headliner that night, the Zac Brown Band, but I had not had the chance to check out Brown and his fellow musicians. At the end of the night, I have to admit that I walked out of the 'Jammer as a new admirer of Brown's music.

It isn't the sort of stuff I normally listen to or seek out in a live setting, but Brown turned out to be so doggone agreeable, that I really couldn't help enjoying the show. For those that haven't yet had the pleasure, it should be said first that Brown exhibits a very laid-back demeanor on stage, although he can at times play his acoustic guitar like a man possessed. I suspect that the lackadaisical grin is just a front though. In truth, Brown and his cronies might just be one of the hardest-working group of guys in the business. How else do you describe a guy who can make his band sound like Jimmy Buffett, Bob Marley, Robert Earl Keen and James Taylor, often within the course of two or three songs?

According to the biography at the band's Web site (zacbrownband.com), Brown got his start playing in bars around his native Atlanta, and built up an arsenal of more than 1,000 cover songs. About that time he met fiddle player Jimmy Demartini and bassist John Hopkins, and the earliest edition of the Zac Brown Band was born.

Eventually, the band added guitarist and organist Coy Bowles, as well as drummer Chris Fryar, and now the band works like a well-oiled machine.

Apparently Brown and his band have a loyal following here in the Lowcountry, because Sunday night marked the second in a series of three shows in as many days at the 'Jammer. The place was packed, and once Brown got things going with songs such as "Where the Boat Leaves From" and "Highway 20 Ride," it seemed that everyone in front of the stage was singing along word for word.

With Bowles switching between keyboards and guitar, and Demartini doing double-duty as fiddle player and backup vocalist, it was easy to see that Brown had picked the guys in his band for the stability.

Other songs performed included originals such as "Junkyard," "Every Little Bit" and "Mary."

The covers were quality ones, with the likes of The Band ("The Weight"), The Charlie Daniels Band ("Devil Went Down To Georgia") and Van Morrison ("Into the Mystic") represented well.

My personal favorite song of the evening was "Toes," a song that has more than a few hints of the Jimmy Buffett sound to it. With summer coming on in Charleston, how could one not be attracted to a song whose lyrics read, in part; "Not a worry in the world, a cold beer in my hand. Life is good today. Life is good today."

One could totally believe that Buffett might cover it someday. Until that day comes though, Brown and his band will just keep plugging away, gathering a few more fans wherever they play. I'm living proof as to the powerful attractive qualities in the music that the band puts out.

If you enjoy the music of any of those artists I mentioned above, then you owe it to yourself to check out the Zac Brown Band the next time it stops in town.


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