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13 Acts That Rocked the Sail Across the Sun Music Cruise

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11. Ben Rector

Seemingly out of nowhere, Rector and his ultra-amazing band took the ship by storm. Call him Rhythm and Reflection, Rock and Revelry, or simply a Super Showman, it's no matter; Rector is remarkable. What's more, his keyboard player reminds one of a young Jerry Lee Lewis. Still, after three indie albums, Rector remains all but unknown. No worries; seeing is believing, and this guy's got the goods.

12. Dirty Guv'nahs

The Dirty Guv'nahs are from Knoxville, Tennessee, a personal favorite city, and they're, well, really nice guys. Fortunately, they also make great music too, a sound that taps into the Southern tradition without coming across as derivative or repetitious. And they rock; the first of the two gigs we caught found them offering a rocking rendition of Lenny Kravitz's "Are You Going My Way" and a credible read of "Layla" a few songs along.

On Monday at midnight, they played the final set of the cruise and knocked it out of the park with a take on "The Weight" that was simply stunning. "We play a few covers to grab the passersby," lead singer James Trimble said earlier, but the truth is, their new album, Hearts on Fire, which is due out next month, is such a killer, they can easily stand on their own songs.

13. Matt Nathanson

Nathanson's got it all -- great songs, a compelling presence, a heightened sense of drama and dynamics, and a self-effacing sense of humor that could qualify him as the Don Rickles of Rock. That is, if he didn't already come across like a young Bruce Springsteen. He's got the cool and charisma, and the showmanship was disarming. To a shirtless man observing the poolside show: "Sir, you have nipples like projectiles..." To another: "You look like Carmen Appice. He was Rod Stewart's drummer in the '80s. How do you like living there?" His admonishment to encourage people to sing along: "Only the sexy and confident people need to participate." And while some of his comments seemed on the fringe of good prudence -- particularly when he discussed the joys of soaping up one's nether regions while showering and his anecdote about visiting some critically ill kids in a hospital and singing "Staying Alive" (groan) -- his spellbinding performances may have been the most mesmerizing of all.

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Lee Zimmerman

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