Sugarland may be on an extended break, but Kristian Bush is certainly keeping busy working on his first solo album. He recently told a sold-out Ram’s Head On Stage crowd, “The record company wants 10 songs and I have (written) 300. That’s a good problem.”
Bush tried out 15 of those 300 “good problems” for an enthusiastic Annapolis audience that didn’t seem to mind one bit to only hear three songs by his award-winning duo.
Flanked by a face-painted (more on that later) five-piece band which included the marvelous Rebecca and Megan Lovell (aka Larkin Poe) the band kicked the night off with the rock and roll crunch of “Shine On.” They jammed, posed like rock stars and were clearly having a blast playing together. That mood did not lessen one bit throughout the next two hours.
Bush introduced the second song, the introspective, how times are changing “American Window” by explaining, “This is about what I see out my window.” The summery, Zac Brownish “Love or Money” followed and it wasn’t hard for Bush to get the crowd to already loosen up and sing along to the chorus of a song few in the audience knew.
One of the more humorous moments of the night came when Bush introduced the hilarious “Flip Flop.” “This is my very first drinking song…I have a feeling someone should take away all of those awards.” The mid-tempo groover had a pleasant Eagles-esque feel-good vibe and featured sugary harmonies by the Lovell sisters (not to be confused with the group The Lovell Sisters which they were in with their sister Jessica).
It only took six songs before Bush played a Sugarland fan-favorite. “I have a big dream and I know it’s gonna happen,” Bush explained about the wishful inspiration behind “Baby Girl.” The band played it slowed down and soulful with Bush taking the lead vocal while Rebecca charmed the crowd with her sweet mandolin licks. Two songs later Bush, on his own, played a straight acoustic version of “Stuck Like Glue” albeit, without the Sugarland rap. It still worked.
After the short solo acoustic set, the party unraveled into a roar of constant laughs as Bush explained why his band was sporting face paint. There was monthly street festival outside the venue that day and Bush created teams of two among the band and crew. He gave each team $40 to find the best deal and coolest find amongst the vendors. Without going into too much detail about the contest, Rebecca and her teammate ended up finding 13 Montgomery Gentry T-shirts on the tour bus, and used that as their best deal (they later threw the shirts into the crowd). Bush asked her about his 20 bucks and Rebecca explained that that’s how they paid for the band’s face-painting. For the record, Megan had a David Bowie Aladdin Sane look, the bass player was Paul Stanley, the drummer had a Mexican death mask paint job, the keyboard player was The Flash, and Rebecca had fairy wings around her eyes and cheeks.
The band gained their composure and played “Giving it Up,” a song about quitting those pesky vices and a cover of The Cars’ “Drive” in which Bush explained that he always thought of it as a country song.
“You’re Gonna Get Yours” was a foot-stomping country rocker a la classic Steve Earle. “Drive-in Movie” was one of the finer/reflective moments of the performance. The song featured nostalgic lyrics of simpler times and fine lap steel playing by Megan.
Bush also performed his first solo single “Trailer Hitch,” a song about not being able to take with you when you go, garnered a terrific response. Oddly enough, a local musician who travels to gigs in a Hearse with a trailer hitch (I cannot make this up) was performing at bar next door to the Ram’s Head that night. After the show my friend sent Bush a photo of the vehicle, just so he could finally see one. He gave it a thumbs up.
Finishing out the main-set was the Sugarland classic “All I Want To Do” which Bush said he wrote to simply make his daughter dance. He relented though by saying that he doesn’t really know when he’ll have the nerve to tell her it’s a song about sex. Rebecca took the lead vocal and the crowd grooved and sang along. Many, I’m sure, left that perfect night after a single encore, still singing “All I want to do-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooooh…”my friend and I certainly did.
Opening the show was Crofton, Maryland’s Ashley Forrest who garnered national attention last year when she was recognized by the Country Music Association as an “artist to watch.”
The 25-year-old Forrest was joined by her brother Ryan on acoustic guitar as they played some well-chosen covers (Jewel, Miranda Lambert and Lauren Alaina) and songs from her 2012 debut Seven Hundred Miles. Highlights included the spunky mid-tempo rocker “Try and Stop Me” and the vulnerable “If That’s Alright With You” — both songs were reminiscent of early Taylor Swift. She also performed her breezy first single, “Pourin’ Over Me,” which thematically could easily fit on today’s country radio tucked between Jake Owen’s “Beachin” and Joe Nichols, “Sunny and 75.”
Forrest closed the enjoyable set with the crowd-pleasing “What I Did Last Night,” a song written by Dave Berg and Lady Antebellum. The humorously relatable morning-after-a night-of-hard-drinking/late-night-booty-call song had the crowd roaring as the protagonist starts figuring out what exactly went down the night before.