13 Songs, 52 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

For Daylight, John Driskell Hopkins takes a break from his duties with Zac Brown Band to team up with the bluegrass combo Balsam Range. The result's a spirited project filled with down-home wisdom and humor. Hopkins has a burly, emotive baritone and a musical sensibility steeped in classic Southern rock and jam-band influences. Though he erupts in bear-like growls at times, his persona is often unguardedly tender, especially on “Bye Baby Goodbye” (a bittersweet duet with Joey Feek of Joey + Rory) and “How Could Eye” (a pledge of devotion featuring singer/songwriter Levi Lowrey). His playful, Dixie-fried wit comes through in “She Don’t Love Me Today” and “It’s Not OK,” while his knack for rootsy balladry is evident in “The Devil Lives in a Mason Jar.” Balsam Range shows its prowess as an ensemble on “Runaway Train” (with Jerry Douglas offering scorching licks on dobro), “The Grass Don’t Get No Greener” (a rollicking track that veers from swing to bluegrass and back again), and the fast-paced title track. Zac Brown stops by to contribute vocals to the gospel-tinged “I Will Lay Me Down,” adding to the warm family feeling of this engaging release.

EDITORS’ NOTES

For Daylight, John Driskell Hopkins takes a break from his duties with Zac Brown Band to team up with the bluegrass combo Balsam Range. The result's a spirited project filled with down-home wisdom and humor. Hopkins has a burly, emotive baritone and a musical sensibility steeped in classic Southern rock and jam-band influences. Though he erupts in bear-like growls at times, his persona is often unguardedly tender, especially on “Bye Baby Goodbye” (a bittersweet duet with Joey Feek of Joey + Rory) and “How Could Eye” (a pledge of devotion featuring singer/songwriter Levi Lowrey). His playful, Dixie-fried wit comes through in “She Don’t Love Me Today” and “It’s Not OK,” while his knack for rootsy balladry is evident in “The Devil Lives in a Mason Jar.” Balsam Range shows its prowess as an ensemble on “Runaway Train” (with Jerry Douglas offering scorching licks on dobro), “The Grass Don’t Get No Greener” (a rollicking track that veers from swing to bluegrass and back again), and the fast-paced title track. Zac Brown stops by to contribute vocals to the gospel-tinged “I Will Lay Me Down,” adding to the warm family feeling of this engaging release.

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About John Driskell Hopkins & Balsam Range

Best known as one of the founding members of the Zac Brown Band, multi-instrumentalist John Driskell Hopkins also pursued a number of side projects outside of the ZBB, including the bluegrass band Balsam Range and a pair of Christmas albums in the late 2010s.

Hopkins was born in San Antonio, Texas on May 3, 1971 and was raised in Gainesville, Georgia. His first band was Only for Tomorrow, a covers band he played in while attending high school in Georgia. While attending Florida State University and pursuing a degree in general theater, he led a band called the Woodpeckers; they'd eventually record an album, releasing it under the name Distant Relatives. Following his graduation, he headed to Atlanta and formed the alternative rock band Brighter Shade in 1996 with guitarist/vocalist Andy Birdsall, bassist Sean McIntyre, and drummer Marcus Petruska. An eponymous independent album arrived that year.

Hopkins continued to play with Brighter Shade as he set up a studio of the same name. He first encountered Zac Brown in 1998, when the singer/songwriter appeared at an open-mike night hosted by Hopkins. The two hit it off and began working on the album that became the Zac Brown Band's 2004 independent debut, Home Grown. Around that time, Hopkins accepted an offer to join the Zac Brown Band as a bassist, just after he finished co-writing "Toes" -- which would turn into the band's first big hit -- with Brown and Shawn Mullins. By that point, Brighter Shade had recorded a second album, Divine Ignorance, with a different lineup, but Hopkins had been concentrating on producing local acts at his studio.

After the Zac Brown Band turned into superstars by 2010, Hopkins began dabbling in outside projects. First up was joining the bluegrass band Balsam Range for the 2013 album Daylight. Over the next year, he also moonlighted in another bluegrass group, Dappled Grays, playing with them at several gigs. In 2015, he appeared in the erotic thriller Careful What You Wish For as Gus, but the bigger project for that year was In the Spirit: A Celebration of the Holidays, a collaborative Christmas album with the Atlanta Pops Orchestra. Hopkins released a second seasonal album, You Better Watch Out!, in 2017, this time working with the Joe Gransden Big Band. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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