For decades now, these two Savannah area natives have been an almost constant presence in our region’s nightclubs, bars, restaurants, listening rooms, charity fundraisers and outdoor festivals. Over that time, they’ve each released a handful of impressive, polished albums, and served as charismatic frontmen of several lineups of electric bands which have all borne their respective names.
They’ve crossed paths often, regularly catching the tail end of each other’s shows after completing one of their own in an adjacent location, sharing drinks and talking jive (as musicians are wont to do) whenever they wound up within shouting distance. However, to the best of their recollections, they’ve never officially shared a bill before. That’s somewhat hard to believe, as together, these solid, impressive singer-songwriters are two of Savannah’s finest (on top of being ace interpreters of other artists’ tunes).
DID YOU KNOW? Eric Culberson has opened for and/or played with: Buddy Guy and Johnny Winter. Greg Williams has opened for and/or played with: John Mayer, Lyle Lovett, Warren Zevon, the Indigo Girls and Shawn Mullins.
IF YOU GO
What: Tybee City Limits featuring Eric Culberson Band, Greg Williams Band, Crystina Parker
When: 8 p.m. Feb. 21
Where: Tybee Post Theater, 10 Van Horne Ave.
Cost: $10 or $9 for members; all ages
And, as if their mutual devotion to quality control wasn’t enough of a qualifier, Culberson’s funky, flashy, rock-tinged take on Chicago, Memphis and Texas blues is an almost perfect complement to Williams’ blues and soul-infused pop and folk-rock.
Come Sunday, this perplexing incongruity will at long last be rectified, when the Greg Williams Band opens for the Eric Culberson Band at the newly restored Tybee Post Theater. Singer-songwriter Crystina Parker, a member of local indie-rock band Lovely Locks and punk/garage rockers P. Launcher, kicks things off with what will likely be a solo set.
These three artists make up the latest installment of “Tybee City Limits,” the seated, all-ages venue’s increasingly popular, regularly scheduled showcase of outstanding local talent.
“Eric and I met and jammed years ago for the first time,” Williams recalls. “We’ve recorded together and performed many times together at his open mic nights around town. But this is the first show of this type we’ve ever played together.” Williams holds Culberson in the highest regard as a fellow performer, offering that, in his opinion, “nobody does it better.”
In this case, “it” means the kind of intense, electric blues music exemplified by Freddie, Albert and B.B. King — three surname-sharing seminal figures of the genre which Culberson notably paid tribute to in a well-attended all-star tribute show at the Lucas Theatre a few months back.
“Eric and his group have really delved into the blues,” Williams says. “Over the same time, my songwriting has become more versatile, and now I’m drawing on everything from hard rock to country. I may lean more in the rock ‘n’ roll direction than Eric, but we share a great deal in our love for roots music.”
Culberson is quick to sing Williams’ praises as well. “I think Greg’s an amazing songwriter,” says the notoriously difficult-to-impress bandleader. “He really delivers at his shows.”
The three acts will likely feel no small amount of pressure to perform to the very best of their abilities at Sunday’s concert. The historic Tybee Post Theater is a beautiful, if spartan, 200-capacity seated venue that has recently reopened after more than a decade of community fundraising efforts. With an ample stage, new sound and lighting system and sloped floor, there is quite honestly not a bad seat in the house, and this is a chance for each artist and their bandmates to be presented in a much more refined and respectful manner than virtually any other spot one is likely to catch their shows.
Williams says he’s extremely excited to play this old-fashioned room “for the vibe alone.”
“Just look at that place,” he says. “I feel like Buddy Holly or somebody. Playing a place like this is akin to being in a listening room. Those are venues where the usual conversations and bar noises are frowned upon, and people come specifically to pay attention to the music. To a real artist, nothing is more flattering.”
“The people that will be there will be there for the music,” echoes Culberson. “That’s the focal point, and because of that, I can work the dynamics of the songs. Settings like this tend to bring out the very best performances that I can remember.”
Both men say they are putting together special sets of material just for this particular show, which are markedly different from the songs they’d normally include at their less formal gigs. Which is to say, if you’re a fan who’s seen one or both of these musicians and their bands in a bar or restaurant, you won’t have necessarily seen what they’re capable of when the pressure is on and the occasion calls for something really special.
“My set will be based entirely on my original work as opposed to the mixture of cover and original tunes I normally play,” Williams says. “We’ll include songs from all five of my albums, plus unreleased tunes from my upcoming record. “My band will feature Shane Baldwin on guitar, Paul Cooper on drums and our newest member, Jon Willis on bass. I’m thrilled to have them on stage with me, as we all share an enormous amount of respect for each other.”
Culberson’s current band includes bassist Jonathan Hill and drummer Larry Duff.
“Larry was a session player back in the ’80s, and has worked with great artists like James Taylor, Al Jarreau, Curtis Mayfield and Chaka Khan, to name a few,” Culberson says. “That’s a plus, because in my band we cover a lot of ground within the realm of the blues.
“Jon is a good ol’ Mississippi boy, and he brings that Southern soul to the mix. Those guys and I are well balanced.”
Both bandleaders express their admiration for Parker, and are excited to have her on the bill as well.
“I have yet to see her solo show, but have enjoyed her electric side with Lovely Locks,” Williams says. Culberson adds, “She’s a little firecracker, and will really complement the entire night.”
To encourage folks to make the drive from surrounding areas out to Tybee for their show, Williams offers kind words for the upstart venue.
“I love what the Tybee Post Theater is trying to do, and hope for a great turnout. It’s a beautiful setting for almost any concert.” Says Culberson with conviction: “It’s gonna be a great night of good music.”