Zac Brown Band Presents: Sailing Southern Ground, Day 2

The Jompson Brothers

Videos by American Songwriter

Alex Shoaf, Davis Inman and Caine O’Rear contributed to this article.

Knoxville rock outfit Dirty Guv’nahs livened up things for sun-weary sailors on the Lido Deck Friday afternoon. With a front man that channels Jagger and an undeniably soulful sound, the band handily incited cannonballs of applause from the stage-side pool. Fresh out of Levon Helm’s studio in Woodstock, New York, the band spun off their take on “Ophelia” before hitting John Lennon’s “Instant Karma” and a few tracks from their newest record, Youth Is In Our Blood. – A.S.
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The Jompson Brothers hardly needed an American Songwriter contest win to qualify for a gig on the Sailing Southern Ground boat. Songwriter and lead yowler Chris Stapleton has been a bluegrass rock star with The Steeldrivers for years, before recently turning his attention to heavy, bluesy rock and roll and outlaw-leaning country with the Jompsons. Stapleton’s songwriting – he’s had big country hits and clocks in at Brad Paisley’s SeaGayle Publishing house – is simple enough to be instantly classic, but his melodies and progressions have enough movement to keep you guessing. The band lays down a deep groove like early Led Zeppelin. You can tell when they get together their sound just comes out naturally heavy. On the Promenade Stage, tucked behind the casino, on Friday evening, the Jompsons drew a respectable crowd, though the complexity of their attack was probably a bit heady for the light, feel-good boat crowd. – D.I.

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Southern Ground recording artist Sonia Leigh played to a packed house Friday night in the Candlelight Lounge. A Florida-born, Georgia-bred spitfire reminiscent of a young Melissa Etheridge, Leigh played several raucous numbers about whiskey misadventures and love gone wrong. Soon to tour with Loretta Lynn, Leigh mixes bar-band rock with midnight-hour country soul. She’s also funny. “I spit a lot when I sing,” she told the crowd. “So I was thinking about getting panchos made for the crowd that said, ‘I Got Wet by Sonia Leigh.’” – C.O.

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Zac Brown Band loves the stage. On Friday night, at the first of the two ticketed shows in the boat’s Paris Lounge (the second is on Saturday), the band debuted their fall tour’s line-up, with short set openers from virtuoso fiddler Casey Driesen and Atlanta’s Wood Brothers. The experimental, jazz-leaning trios were remarkable, though Brown himself emerged several times from the wings to demand that the crowd be quiet and respectful. (Perhaps it was just wishful thinking on “Hillbilly” theme night.) Brown proved the consummate master of ceremonies during the four-plus- hour affair, bringing out a cast of talent, including guitarist Marija Temo, Breaking Southern Ground artists Sonia Leigh, Nic Cowan and Levi Lowrey, Sarah Dugas of the Duhks and Atlanta singer-songwriter Shawn Mullins. At the finale – after all the hits were played, plus a few future-hits from the forthcoming You Get What You Give – Brown stood on stage with 15 (mostly Georgian) musicians for a rendition of “Georgia On My Mind.” The show closed out with crowd favorite “Free,” which sandwiched a cover of Van Morrison’s “Into The Mystic” without missing a beat. It was an exhausting performance – for the musicians and the crowd – but it was just good enough to forget how long you’d been sitting there. – D.I.

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Atlanta’s Yacht Rock Revue summed up their shtick at Friday night’s Candlelight Lounge show by introducing their next song, “Now for another song we didn’t write or record.” That premise for the music – jokey covers of ‘70s AM Gold (or worse) – has proved a breeding ground for Atlanta musicians. ZBB’s Clay Cook and members of Blackberry Smoke played with the throwback pranksters before “getting called up to the big leagues.” With two leader singers, a ripping guitarist and dual keyboardists (with identical Nord/Roland stations), the Yacht Rock crew both looks the part and brings the goods. They even have a refreshing lack of reverence for their bejeweled hosts, with a few quips about the “Jackson Brown Band.” – D.I.
American Songwriter readers on Grand Cayman. No actors were used in this photograph, which is based on real-life events.

Country duo Joey and Rory were spotted during a video shoot while on shore leave.

Saturday morning found the American Songwriter crew on terra firma, after two days and nights at sea. We caught a water taxi from the cruise ship into the island of Grand Cayman, the famous bank shelter and mecca for scuba divers. We only had a few hours on the beach, during which time I managed to cut my leg on a piece of coral while doing the side-stroke. I also met two Italian girls who were in no mood for conversation.  – C.O.


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