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Zac Brown bassist heads 2-day John Jarrard music festival

Annual benefit concert grows beyond one night with full slate of performers

POSTED: September 22, 2011 12:30 a.m.
SCOTT ROGERS/The Times

The lawn at Brenau University will again be the site of the annual John Jarrad Concert, this year a two-day event.

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The John Jarrard and Friends Benefit Concert keeps growing bigger every year.

The event, set for Sept. 23-24, has expanded to two days in celebration of its 10th anniversary. It will benefit the John Jarrard Foundation, named for the late Jarrard, a Gainesville resident and member of the Georgia Music Hall of Fame.

The foundation's proceeds will benefit Jarrard's favorite local charities, including Good News at Noon, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Hall County and the Georgia Mountain Food Bank fund.

Gainesville native and Zac Brown Band bassist John Driskell Hopkins will open the event at 7 p.m. Friday. He will be backed by Balsam Range, the North Carolina bluegrass group recently nominated for three International Bluegrass Music Association awards.

Hopkins said he's excited to share a set with Balsam Range.

"They're going to be the backup band for my set, they're going to play their own set and we also have Blackberry Smoke on that night, too, so it's going to be three rootsy Southern acts in a row," he said.

"They're all outstanding players and songwriters and musicians, and I was very excited that they were interested in doing this gig and playing with me."

Hopkins will perform some well-known tunes that lend themselves to bluegrass, like "It's Not OK," from Zac Brown Band's "The Foundation," as well as some less familiar songs.

"The neat thing about (Balsam Range) is that they can do anything. Some songs come off as a bluegrass sound, and then some songs come off like country jazz, almost like a Darrell Scott deal, and I just love that," he said.

After Friday's opening concerts, activities will take place throughout the day Saturday, including a fine arts show, performances by young songwriters and activities for kids.

That night will feature the Songwriters in the Round concert, a yearly staple that will include songwriters behind some of the biggest hits in the music industry.

Acts will include Manuel Seal, who wrote Mariah Carey's "Always Be My Baby;" Steve Dorff, who wrote "Through the Years" for Kenny Rogers and George Strait's "Cross My Heart;" and Jan Smith, vocal coach for Justin Bieber.

Stella Parton, the sister of Dolly Parton, also will perform, along with Katie Deal, daughter of Gov. Nathan Deal.

Hopkins said this year marks his first time performing at the event, which happened to be scheduled during a touring break for ZBB.

The group was recently featured on the "Today" show's concert series, and lately they've been touring out West.

"Last week, we played Red Rocks (in Morrison, Colo.) This week we're playing The Gorge (in Quincy, Wash.) There's just some big, mountain Western festival stuff going on right now that we're a part of this year that we've never been a part of in the past, and that's pretty awesome," Hopkins said.

In October, the inaugural Southern Ground Music and Food Festival, organized by Brown, will take place in Charleston, S.C., featuring ZBB and other well-known acts including Train, My Morning Jacket and Del McCoury, along with food from a roster of gourmet chefs.

Next year will bring a new album for the group. After that, Hopkins plans to get started on his own solo project.

Despite a slew of tour dates and opportunities, he said he jumped at the chance to come back to his hometown to play.

"I've been looking forward to it," he said.

"I'm very excited to do it, especially since it's a Gainesville thing and I haven't had an opportunity to be back in a while."



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