J. B. and The Moonshine Band to play fair

Courtesy JB and The Moonshine Band are coming to the East Texas State Fair. During the last year they’ve had their album named one of Rolling Stone magazine’s top five country albums and released three No. 1 singles

After spending the last year or so cranking out a few No. 1 hits and headlining music festivals in Europe, JB and The Moonshine Band will at last have a bit of a homecoming at the East Texas State Fair.

"There is no place we like playing more than Tyler, Texas and that's the truth," said frontman J.B. Patterson.

During the last year they've had their album named one of Rolling Stone magazine's top five country albums of 2012, released three No. 1 singles (their most recent being "The Only Drug") and had top billing at Festival De Craponne for Country Rendezvous in France.

"(The festival) was pretty crazy," Patterson said. "They had press from all over the country there at the event. When we first got there they had this big reception for us and presented us with a medal to the city we were playing in and treated us like royalty. Then came the day of the show and it was beautiful weather until the instant we took the stage. Then it was a torrential downpour of rain, but it was actually kind of magical. … But everyone was staying, so to encourage them to stay I jumped out onto one of the speaker platforms and got into the rain with them."

They've also hit an important milestone in the life of a band: They've upgraded from a van to a tour bus.

"That's changed our lives in a major way. I don't know if it's the first (milestone), but it's definitely one of the coolest," Patterson said.

"It's really our home on the road. So we have our home and our road home. And when our road home was a van and you put seven dudes in a van, that's just not cool. But our bus has 12 bunks and we have Internet. We can do our own thing or we can sit in the lounge and jam guitars if we want to or read a book. There's a refrigerator and a microwave, and we're just able to be a little less claustrophobic, and it's just changed our lives in a major way."

There's no sign of the band slowing down, though, Patterson said, as they're hard at work putting together a brand new album, but not before they put out another single or two. In particular, they're about to drop a new version of "Black & White," which features a duet between Patterson and Angaleena Presley of the Pistol Annies.

"Angaleena is just the coolest, most down-to-earth girl, so we just decided to do this as a duet," Patterson said.

This version actually is closer to how Patterson originally intended the song and provides more texture than the album version.

"The song originally was written in, I guess you would say, third person where I'm basically telling a story about a girl and a guy. He's always on the road, times get hard and puts strains on the relationship," he said. "Instead of third person, now it's first person where the girl is telling the story of the girl, and the guy is telling the story of the guy, which was the way I had intended it to be from the beginning. … It's exciting and always fun to try new things. For whatever reason, it seemed pretty effortless, and I think that's going to show in the actual audio itself."

As for the new album, work continues apace as the band tries to find that right balance that brings success along with it.

"I've been writing a lot with some real heavy hitters. I've been writing a lot by myself and I've been writing a lot with the band," he said. "So we're writing from all angles. It's trying to strike that balance between being yourself and being authentic, yet also maintaining a modicum of (commercial appeal). That's really been my goal."

He'll have some help finding that balance, it would seem, after a chance encounter on a plane led to Patterson befriending Allen Shamblin, the songwriter responsible for several No. 1 country hits, including Miranda Lambert's Grammy Award-winning "The House That Built Me."

This guy has written so many No. 1's, all the way back to ‘I Can't Make You Love Me" by Bonnie Raitt, all the way back to last year's No. 1 country song of the year. So I got to spend two hours picking Allen Shamblin's brain on song writing," Patterson said. "He was such a gracious guy. He invited me out to his ranch to write with him next time I'm in Nashville. So, things like that have been happening to us since we've started this band, and I'm just thankful for it. I'm not questioning it and I'm going to keep doing that until I can't do it anymore."

J.B. and The Moonshine Band will take the stage at 8 p.m. Saturday at the East Texas State Fair in Tyler. Access to the concert is included with fair admission, $8 for adults and $5 for kids age 6 to 12.