Zane Williams Trio and Brett Dennen, presented by Sings Like Hell. At the Lobero Theatre, Saturday, December 9.
Reviewed by Felicia M. Tomasko
Last Saturday night’s foray through the fiery gates produced a raucous evening of two singer/songwriters with divergent styles, who each pulled off a crowd-pleasing event. The evening started with Zane Williams, an S.B. newcomer from Nashville, who delivered poignant songs from his just-released album, Hurry Home. Williams is a young version of the craggy country singer, with a resonant voice that transcends labels. With Andy Hall on dobro and Matt Raum on mandolin, Williams announced he was performing the new album in order, beginning with “Livin’ in the Good Old Days.”
Apparently, Williams doesn’t take himself — or his songs — too seriously; the performance featured a number of humorous ditties, including “You Don’t Know Jack,” a tune about a scheming bank robber, and a beat-boxed song about Sings Like Hell that Williams wrote just before the show. But the highlight of the performance was “Hurry Home,” the song that won the John Lennon Song of the Year award, and deservedly so.
Next up was Brett Dennen, a frequent visitor to Santa Barbara music venues who is often seen playing for donations to the Naples cause. Usually, he plays solo around here, but in Hell he was accompanied by bassist Kevin McCormick—who plays with Jackson Browne and who produced Dennen’s latest recording, So Much More—percussionist Randy Schwartz, and keyboardist and trumpet player Ara Anderson, whose solos threatened to steal the limelight in a few songs, and might have done so with a lesser singer.
But Dennen can certainly hold his own. The audience was all smiles when the cherubic singer played, barefoot and swaying as he strummed his guitar, emblazoned with the word “Peace” across its front. It was a sentiment he emanated while crooning love songs, laments, and desires for flight. With songs like “Darlin’ Do Not Fear” and “The One Who Loves You the Most,” Dennen’s mesmerizing voice carried the crowd to the end of his set and through an encore, sending us back into the rainy night with no regrets.