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Sawyer Brown ushers in the holiday season

November 22, 1999

Sawyer BrownBy BRUCE HAMILTON / Staff Writer

photo: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer




Country music stars Sawyer Brown on Sunday brought Christmas cheer a little early to the Maryland Theatre, where they gave two performances filled with holiday tunes.

cont. from front page

"Christmas All Year Long" led the night's show and several songs followed from "Hallelujah He Is Born," the band's Christmas album. Lead singer Mark Miller struck a serene note with a slower tempo and religious themes.

After crooning the carol, "Little Drummer Boy" and "Where Christmas Goes," Miller showed his humor. "The Christmas show was originally just a test by the Country Music Association to see if I would sit still for 60 minutes," he said.

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"As you'll see later, it didn't work."

Miller, known for his energetic on-stage antics, smiled broadly in the spotlight with his bald pate uncovered. He wore a deep red, velvety shirt complemented by keyboard player Gregg "Hobie" Hubbard's similar outfit in green.

The pair bantered comically, plugging their own album while taking good-natured jabs at other artists. When Hobie told the audience "Hallelujah" was on sale in the lobby, Miller made fun of his self-promotion.

"Thanks, Garth (Brooks)! Always marketing, aren't you?" he said.

"It makes a great Christmas present. It's great for kids, ... fun for all ages," replied Hobie. Together they launched into "The Wiseman's song," which the keyboard player wrote. The lights dimmed on the black-draped, sparse stage.

Lead guitarist Duncan Cameron displayed his versatility, setting the guitar down to sit at the slide. During "Wiseman," he took up the mandolin. The music combined acoustic and electric sounds with two guitarists and two drummers, one using congas.

A Yuletide motif decorated the theater. Three white angels hung under arches at the entrance holding the words "Peace On Earth."

Wreaths hung on the walls inside and lights twined through garlands around the walls. Poinsettias sat beside the stage wings. Red lighting often bathed the seven musicians.

Before singing Amy Grant's "Tennessee Christmas," Hobie joked, "to hear her sing it you've got to pay like $125, so I've already saved you like $100." He performed the song solo in the spotlight and afterward, Miller pretended to pout.

"It wasn't that good," he joked. "Let's get back to me."

Sawyer Brown formed in 1979, adopting their name in 1981 after a Nashville, Tenn., street where they used to rehearse. Their first big break came on the television show "Star Search," where they won $100,000. They landed a record contract in 1984, releasing a self-titled album.

The first single was a top-20 hit and the next year "Step That Step" reached No. 1 on country charts. They endured with a long career, recording some 14 albums with eight No. 1 hits. They became top-grossing artists and earned several awards. This year's release is called "Drive Me Wild."

The title contrasts the members' reputation as level-headed family men. Fans Sunday night said the band has a wholesome appeal.

"It's just plain old good country music," said Doris Stoner of Waynesboro, Pa. She came with her son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren.

Tonia Moats of Hagerstown said it's easy to relate to Sawyer Brown. "They get involved in their music and they really enjoy what they do," she said. "They have fun on stage." Moats said she enjoys the good stories in the band's songs.

Debbie Taylor of Greencastle, Pa., said she's been listening to the band since its "Star Search" days. "They have a lot of energy, a lot of excitement, a lot of fun. It's a little bit of everything."

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