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Zac Brown Band - Pass the Jar

Ben Fong-Torres

Ben Fong-Torres

Posted to Artist Spotlight on January 6, 2014

The Zac Brown Band members must’ve laughed when they heard that they’d won a Grammy as Best New Artist for 2010.  “New”? Brown had been Zacking away, with different musicians, since 2002, and put out DIY albums in 2004 and 2005 before breaking through in 2008.

By fall of ’09, when they performed the concert captured in Pass the Jar, they were big enough to headline a fundraiser at the Fox Theater in his home town of Atlanta, and to bring on a stream of guest artists. They were raising money for the rebuilding of the Georgia Theater in Athens, which had been destroyed by a fire.

As Brown recalls in this film, the Georgia is where his original band got its start, sharing the bill with two other bands and playing in front of a crowd of maybe 50 people. That’s when they were really “new.”

Their 2008 album, The Foundation, distributed by Atlantic Records, produced several big hits, including “Chicken Fried,” “Highway 20 Ride,” “Toes” and “Whatever It Is,” and they’re all here, along with guest vocalists like Little Big Town (on another ZBB chart-topper, “Colder Weather”), Kid Rock (rollin’ with “Can’t You See”), and Shawn Mullins (pitching in on the 2009 smash, “Toes”).

The Zac Brown Band’s been described as “country folk.” That’s not enough. Yes, they can recall The Band (especially when they do a faithfully soulful version of “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” featuring the wonderful guitarist-mandolinist-keyboardist Clay Cook on lead vocals), but they also are rockers, blues players, and jammers. They are two guitars (Brown and Cook), three horns, a fiddle (Jimmy DeMartini), a bassist who also has lead vocal chops (John Driskell Hopkins), drummer Chris Fryar, and percussionist Daniel de los Reyes. They can sound loose and free, but, as behind-the-scenes segments show, they are well-rehearsed, as Brown works with the band, and guests like Kid Rock and Little Big Town on just how specific parts of their songs should go.

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Even if you weren’t reading Rolling Stone magazine in the late '60s /early '70s, you might still know who Ben Fong-Torres is from the movie “Almost Famous.” Ben Fong-Torres is the legendary Rolling Stone Senior Editor who was characterized in the Cameron Crowe movie and now,… More