BY BRITTANY TAYLOR
Making one of their multiple stops on their 2016 tour at The Buccaneer this past month, country-rock duo Mckenzies Mill entertained the crowd with their “holler and sallower” toasting tradition, friendly sibling banter, and their original “Southern fried rock ‘n’ roll” singles.
If you aren’t familiar with McKenzies Mill, just tune in to 95.1 WRNS and you are bound to hear their recently released single, “Middle of Nowhere.” Justin and Ryan Harris connect with their North Carolina natives by painting a picture of their hometown of West End: corn fields, dirt roads, bonfires, and “livin’ it up” until the sun rises. But don’t let their small town upbringing fool you; these guys are already hitting it big in Nashville.
The brothers have been on a roll since winning Bud Light’s National Battle of the Bands in 2012 and followed up a couple years later by being named the “Who New To Watch” Artist in the CMA “Close Up” publication in 2014. In 2015, the band took a huge step when they signed with Rock Ridge Music and have been working with New Voice Entertainment (who has also produced music with Parmalee) for their new EP, which does not have a scheduled release date yet.
Part of the postpone, according to Ryan Harris, is so the band can promote and market their songs during their 2016 tour. Not surprisingly, these guys have spent the majority of their career touring, “I think we’ve pretty much been on tour for 10 years it seems, I mean, it’s just kind of what we do,” says vocalist and guitar player Justin Harris, the oldest of the two. Though they have shows from Georgia to Wisconsin, they don’t forget about the places that helped them in the beginning. They make it a point to play at O’Donnell’s Pub in Southern Pines, where they played their first gig, at least once a year. Ryan adds, “We’re proud North Carolina boys and ECU alumni, and love coming back to the area and watching it grow.”
McKenzies Mill must have taken a few pointers from their days as Pirate undergrads; they put on one hell of a show! Their set consisted of a range of covers from crowd pleasers like “Copper Head Road” by Steve Earle, to their rendition of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” and ended with one of the world’s greatest guitar solos from Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird.” And that was just the first set! The guys introduced one of their original works after a few covers and the crowd at The Buccaneer responded with applause and praise. While a few songs have more of a modern country sound, their self-labeled “southern fried rock ‘n’ roll” shines through with Justin’s husky vocals and Ryan’s harmonica accents.
The guys will be playing at the CMA Fest for the third year in a row this June, so check them out while they’re still rising in the ranks. They will be back in North Carolina March 5 at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino in Cherokee and will be welcomed back at The Buccaneer on April 5.
PHOTOS BY CHRIS RAWLS