- PHOTO PROVIDED
You could never accuse Zac Brown Tribute Band of false advertising. Live-music lovers know exactly what they’re getting with this good-vibin’ septet devoted to interpreting the songs of the popular country rock group Zac Brown Band. And while the tribute band does a rousing version of the Zac Brown hit “Chicken Fried,” these cover artists don’t relegate themselves to Brown’s songs alone. ZBTB puts its enthusiastic, countrified spin on classics like Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic” and Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.”
Finalists: Begging Angels | Claudia Hoyser | Jeff Riales | Jake Wren
For original country songs with mainstream pop appeal, listen to the music of singer-songwriter Claudia Hoyser. From the mid-tempo lilt of “Wicked,” off of her 2021 debut album “Red Light’s Turning Green,” to the new single “Small Town Motels,” Hoyser excels at wistful ballads sung with earnestness and just the right amount of twang. — DANIEL J. KUSHNER
The quartet of Aaron Lipp, Max Flansburg, Ben Haravitch, and Will Sigel has too much talent to go without mention here. While the group doesn’t perform often, you owe it to yourself to check them out as they bring original country, bluegrass, and folk tunes by Lipp, Flansburg, and Haravitch to life. You probably won’t hear this music on the radio, but the songcraft alone is top-tier.
— DANIEL J. KUSHNER