Show Reviews

Show Review: Sawyer Brown, MaRynn Taylor, & Josiah Siska



Ft. Sawyer Brown, MaRynn Taylor, & Josiah Siska

Wednesday June 8, 2022

@ Skydeck at Assembly Hall in Nashville, TN

(Review by: Jeffrey Kurtis)

Since its inception in 1972, CMA Fest (then Fan Fair) has been, and always will be about the country music fans. However, the 2022 edition of the hottest music festival of summer leveled up big time thanks in part to it being absent for the past two years due to the pandemic, which means the shows were bigger, the artists were that much more excited to be back, and the fans were completely over the moon.

The Skydeck at Assembly Hall was jam packed with enthusiastic country music fans the night before CMA Fest officially kicked off as the venue hosted the legendary Sawyer Brown’s Fan Appreciation Party, which also included performances from Black River Entertainment recording artist’s MaRynn Taylor and Josiah Siska.

Madison Brown, Mark Miller’s daughter and host of the popular television program Chasing Down Madison Brown, said it best when she introduced Josiah Siska as having a “voice like velvet.”

He hit the stage and immediately pulled the crowd into his set when he kicked off with his current single ‘Honky-Tonk,” and quickly introduced his stone country voice and the deepest parts of its register to the audience as they toe tapped and boot stomped along with the catchy rhythm.

Continuing to unravel pieces that gave the crowd a look into who he is and where he comes from, he first ran us through the classic country titled original song “3 Chords at a Time,” before pausing to talk to the crowd and take them on a journey back to his youth.

“I thought I’d sing a song or two acoustic for you if that’s alright,” he mused to a loud applause that clearly signaled he had already started to win over the crowd. “I grew up in North Georgia listening to classic country music on the radio. I was the one of those who would call up the radio station and request song after song, so here’s some of those songs,” he finished as he played David Allan Coe’s “You Never Even Called Me By My Name,” and a souped up, rocking edged version of Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues,” which he expertly set the anticipation for by starting it at a slower pace and then kicking up the tempo to get everyone dancing along in the crowd as he bopped around the stage with fervor.

Returning to his original music, Siska brought the sexier side of his voice to the forefront, pulling the women in the audience closer to the stage as he sang through the steamy lyrics of “On My Way Over,” which included lines about seeing her hair spread out on pillows, hearing her heartbeat as their love grows stronger, etc.

After taking us to the bar through “Three Tequila Floor,” Siska then paused to gratefully soak in the well-deserved ovation.

“Well, alright… I just took you to the bar and now I’m gonna take you to church. Nobody’s perfect, but we’re all trying to be a little better every day and that’s what this song’s about,” he said introducing “Better Man” before rolling right into the boot-stomping, kick the dirt up party anthem “Come On Down” to close his set.

In just 30 minutes, Josiah Siska had clearly won over the early arrivers, but more importantly, he introduced himself and his classic country infused modern country style to a whole slew of new fans just as he’s getting ready to unleash new music in the coming weeks.

FULL SET LIST (Josiah Siska)

1) Honky-Tonk

2) 3 Chords at A Time

3) You Never Even Called Me By My Name (David Allan Coe cover)

4) Folsom Prison Blues (Johnny Cash cover)

5) On My Way Over

6) Three Tequila Floor

7) Better Man

8) Come on down

With the crowd already amped, Michigan native MaRynn Taylor, who is arguably one of today’s country music’s next big things, took the stage with “I Know a Girl,” and immediately had the crowd singing along with the popular single that acted as the first introduction for many people to her music when she released it in 2021.

“What’s up y’all?” she asked with a big smile across her face. “What a great way to kick off CMA Fest week,” she enthusiastically said as she drove back into her set with “Sounds Like Something,” an ultra-catchy, modern pop country song that had the crowd bopping along with its built for Top 40 feel; and if this performance is any indication, it wouldn’t surprise me to see this song landing there sooner or later for MaRynn!

“This next song was written by the hopeless romantic in me. I honestly don’t know who it’s about, but I’m hoping that one day when I find the boy that it’s about, we take a drive out to the country and slow dance in the headlights,” she said as she introduced the song of the same name, effectively slowing down the set while bringing couples in the crowd close to one another for a slow dance underneath the Nashville skyline as the sun began to set over Music City.

“I grew up loving 90’s country music,” Taylor explained as the audience roared in approval of what has become one country music’s most favorite eras. “If you know this one, then sing along with me,” she enthusiastically said as the opening notes of Jo Dee Messina’s “Heads Carolina, Tails California” reverberated over the venue. While this song has found its way onto many setlists over the last few years, Taylor very intriguingly slid into a really cool instrumentation breakdown toward the end of the song, which cleverly made it her own as the audience clapped along.

After delivering “What If It Went Like This,” MaRynn invited us straight into her personal life with “Boxes,” a strong lyrically driven song about moving out of your parent’s house for the first time and starting your next chapter of life as the boxes you’ve packed surround you in your new apartment causing the natural flurry of emotions that come with big life changes to happen.

“This is my new single going to country radio so sing along if you know it!” she said as she closed her set with “Every Single Summer,” a song that is destined to impact radio in such a strong way that it will become the irresistible hit for the warmer weather months.

Focused mostly on her Something I Would Do EP, MaRynn Taylor won the crowd over with songs that are already out there for the public to hear, which very wisely will send them to their favorite streaming service to continue listening long after her show ended. However, by doing this she also skillfully made such a solid, lasting impression that she heightened the anticipation for her full-length album that’s still to come.

FULL SET LIST (MaRynn Taylor)

1) I Know a Girl

2) Sounds Like Something

3) Slow Dance in the Headlights

4) Heads Carolina, Tails California (Jo Dee Messina)

5) What If It Went Like This

6) Boxes

7) Every Single Summer

For nearly 40 years, since they first came into our homes via their appearance on popular television program Star Search, Sawyer Brown has remained one of the most sought after acts on the country music circuit, and they put on a solid display as to why as they took the stage for a 2-hour performance at their Fan Appreciation Party on the Skydeck at Assembly Hall.

Energetic, and ultra-enthusiastic front man, Mark Miller, hit the stage dancing, gyrating, and spinning around on one leg as has become a signature he’s known for as the group rolled into hit song after hit song, pulling the crowd in while instantly getting them singing and dancing right along with them.

“The Boys and Me,” “Drive Me Wild,” “This Time,” and “Café on the Corner,” which Miller started both the latter with a rousing clap-along, all opened the set and quickly turned the entire Skydeck into one big dance floor as people began line dancing in certain pockets of the crowd, while others bounced shoulders and shuffled their feet in others.

After playing “The Walk,” Miller paused to address the crowd  when he humorously shared, “I was telling my son who all was going to be here tonight - playing on this stage and hanging out in the crowd watching us - and he turns to me and says, “Wow dad! you’re really gonna have to bring it then,” he finished with a mischievous knowing smile as they proceeded to “bring it” with two more upbeat songs “(This Thing Called) Wantin' and Havin' It All” and “Hard To Say,” before slowing down the set for the first time of the night with “The Night Won’t Last Forever” and “All These Years.”

“All that screaming and hooting and hollering for a song about adultery,” Miller shamefully said as he shook his head and laughed. “I see what we’re dealing with now! I’m gonna have to get your heart’s right! I’m gonna have to take you to church!” he exclaimed as he led the crowd in a rafter shaking sing along of “Mission Temple Baptist Fireworks Stand.”

“Now that I feel like we’ve bonded, I want to take a little survey,” Miller quizzically said. “Your answer to this question won’t hurt our feelings a bit, but how many of you out there have not seen us in concert before,” he asked as those first timers in the audience responded.

“Thank you for being here tonight,” he gratefully said before shifting. “But now I’m gonna scold you a bit! We’ve been a band for 38 years and y’all need to get out more,” he said with a laugh. “We did a survey on all our social media – so on Facebook, on Facebook, and over on Facebook - And we asked y’all what you wanted to hear us play tonight and we got your list! This is your show, and y’all picked some songs that made us have to get together and rehearse. So, back 1983 we were on a show called Star Search; I tell my kids that we were the original American Idols and they’re like yeah alright dad. But this is the first song we did on that show,” he introduced as they jumped into “Smokin’ in the Rockies” and bled it right into “Leona” and “Step By Step.”

“We’ve had a request to do this one all day and since this is your show, we’d like to honor you by playing your request now,” he humbly said as the band ripped into “Travelin’ Band” – a song from their 2011 album of the same name.

“So right after we were on Star Search, Kenny Rogers had seen us on the show, and he took us out on tour with him and Dolly Parton. Kenny was unbelievably amazing! It was the biggest tour in the world at that time, and every night we rocked the place. I mean, we blew the roof off the arena every night and got off stage and said, “Now! Let’s see the old man follow that.” And then every night Kenny would mosey up to the microphone and go, “On a warm summer’s evening….” Miller sand as the band jumped in to deliver an amazing cover of “The Gambler.”

“A few years back, we released our 23rd album…as I just said that I also realized that they’re not even called albums anymore,” Miller said with an out-of-date chuckle.  “My wife said to me, how come in all these years you don’t have any songs about me? So, on that record, I wrote her, her very own soft, beautiful love song and we’re gonna play that for you right now,” he said as the band tore into the rebel rousing rock kissed country edged “Smokin’ Hot Wife” and then quickly started the last part of their set with “The Dirt Road” and covers of “Life’s Been Good” and “Jessie’s Girl.”

With the crowd 100% revved up and fueling on all cylinders, two of their biggest hits slapped the audience as “Six Days On The Road” ran right into “Thank God For You” while the voices screaming back the lyrics from the crowd echoed through the Nashville sky. 

Joined by MaRynn Taylor on a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop,” and by Josiah Siska on The Georgia Satellites “Keep Your Hands to Yourself,” Sawyer Brown then wrapped up their incredible show with two last crowd sing-alongs on “The Race Is On” and “Some Girls Do.”

Any group that has survived the up and down machine that is the music industry, must have that certain, very specific something about them that makes them continually resonate with fans. The “IT” factor if you will.

As Sawyer Brown demonstrated with a performance that spanned their entire catalog, their music connects strong memories with fans, but Mark Miller and the entire group also bring an energy level to the stage that never lets up which makes them so uniquely different that even the person who shows up at one of their shows knowing nothing about them is immediately pulled in and instantly becomes a new fan.

So, while this night may have been dubbed as a “fan appreciation night” and honored all their longtime supporters, the simple truth is that their fan base has once again grown substantially on the back of this performance, which is the key factor to their continued success year in and year out.

FULL SET LIST (Sawyer Brown)

1) The Boys and Me

2) Drive Me Wild

3) This Time

4) Café on the Corner

5) The Walk

6) (This Thing Called) Wantin' and Havin' It All

7) Hard To Say

8) The Night Won’t Last Forever

9) All These Years

10) Mission Temple Baptist Fireworks Stand

11) Smokin’ in the Rockies

12) Leona

13) Step By Step

14) Travelin’ Band

15) The Gambler (Kenny Rogers cover)

16) Smokin’ Hot Wife

17) The Dirt Road

18) Life Is Good (Joe Walsh cover)

19) Jessie’s Girl (Rick Springfield cover)

20) Six Days On The Road

21) Thank God For You

22) Don’t Stop (Fleetwood Mac cover)

23) Keep Your Hands To Yourself (Georgia Satellites cover)

24) The Race Is On

25) Some Girls Do


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