Kristian Bush loves Christmas music and he loves introducing his songwriting friends to one another.
Those are reasons enough for his annual post-Thanksgiving-weekend shows at Eddie’s Attic, a tradition he began about eight years ago and continued with two shows on Sunday and one three-hour marathon of awesomeness on Monday night.
The male half of Sugarland, a Decatur native with a long history at Eddie’s Attic, took the stage in his usual unassuming manner, a sweet grin on his face and an array of acoustic guitars and an electric mandolin behind him.
For Monday’s show, Bush brought along Nashville singer-songwriters Canaan Smith – who opened for Sugarland on their recent tour – and Patrick Davis, who flanked Bush on the tiny stage. Bush’s quiet brother Brandon, he of the distinctive moustache, played behind them, stealthily coloring in the musical sketches provided by the trio up front.
Burrowing in the loose vibe that hovers over most shows at the Attic, Davis, Bush and Smith took turns performing their songs. But this was not a night about individualism; it was a night about sharing and reminding most music fans why they love the stuff so much to begin with.
While Bush was the “star” of the show – though he’s so low-key and musically organic, with nary a star trapping about him – the evening was really one big jam session, with each of the musicians joining in on the others’ songs.
Davis possesses an achingly soulful voice, which was used to heartbreaking effect on “Only When You’re Lonely,” and is a masterful storyteller, both lyrically and on stage. The longer he sipped Guinness beers, the more animated he became, telling a particularly hilarious story about his hatred of Tim Tebow (trade him out for Tom Brady and I’m with you, buddy) and the irony that his hit, “Where I’m From,” as recorded by Jason Michael Carroll, is Tebow’s favorite song (he’s not kidding – it’s on his website).
Smith is a different kind of songwriter, a more commercial guy with a sheepish persona and some nifty guitar licks. His song “Black Tears,” co-written with Tyler Hubbard, a Monroe, Ga., native in the duo Florida Georgia Line, landed on Jason Aldean’s new album, and Smith is armed with his own arsenal of hit-ready songs, such as the Luke Bryan-esque “Koozie” and the tender “Prettiest Girl in Town.”
As much as Bush fans might have attended to see the Sugarland luminary up close, there is no doubt they walked out of the show grateful to have been exposed to Davis and Smith’s stirring songs.
So about that main guy…he delivered exactly what he promised. In the first round of performing he offered “Insomniac,” from the Billy Pilgrim days and later, Sugarland’s “What I’d Give,” but he primarily unveiled a selection of new songs (most song titles are assumptions based on the chorus, since Bush didn’t always introduce them by name), often consulting his tablet to keep an eye on the lyrics.
After telling about his new obsession with Garden and Gun magazine – as you might guess, there was much chatting, joking and storytelling in between songs from all of the guys – Bush launched into “Southern Gravity,” a back-porch strummer that references bare feet, moss on an old oak tree and other southern specialties.
Another standout was “American Window,” a Springsteen-worthy portrait of strife and perseverance that absolutely sounds like a hit.
Midway through the show, Davis brought his beautiful-voiced and very pregnant sister, Megan, onstage to join him for “Love on Me” and later, Bush summoned Ellis Paul, who performed at Sunday’s shows, to hop onstage to sing a couple of Christmas songs, including the misty-eye-inducing “Christmas Lullaby” from Paul’s “City of Silver Dreams” album.