1. Skinny Molly
Skinny Molly was founded in 2004 by Mike Estes (formerly of Lynyrd Skynyrd), Dave Hlubek (formerly of Molly Hatchet) and drummer Kurt Pietro. What was meant to be one tour of Europe has turned into one of the hardest working and popular rock bands out of the southern United States.
Skinny Molly now includes guitarist Jay Johnson and bassist Luke Bradshaw. This line up has toured relentlessly, crossing the states and three continents on the strength of their No Good Deed debut CD, which has established the band as a popular touring outfit across the USA and Europe.
They are now poised for success on their home turf with their forthcoming CD Haywire Riot slated for an early fall of 2012 release. The first single from the CD is entitled Mr. President and is available here at skinnymollyrocks.com first, for the band’s biggest fans.
More information at:
2. Michael Lee Firkins
Michael Lee Firkins was born in Omaha, Nebraska in 1967. Born to musician parents, his father was a lap steel guitarist and his mother a pianist, he started playing acoustic guitar at the young age of 8. Mostly self-taught, he also took lessons at a local Omaha music store. Learning the songs of the times, Michael was heavily into Lynyrd Skynyrd, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, and Black Sabbath.
By 1979 Michael was electrified. He played in local bands and in church from the age of 12 until 18. In 1985 Michael started touring the country with cover tune bands. Frustrated with cover tunes, he eventually went back to Omaha and began teaching guitar.
In 1990, Michael released his self-titled debut album on Shrapnel Records.,This release showcased Michael’s signature sound of rock blended with country, blues and jazz. With the strength of this album, Michael’s first release sold more than 100,000 copies.
Michael went on to release three more records for the Shrapnel label..Michael’s current release, Blacklight Sonatas, features Thomas Pridgen (The Mars Volta) on drums, Kai Eckhardt on bass, as well as guest appearances by Matt Abts (drums, Gov’t Mule), Andy Hess (bass, Gov’t Mule), Chuck Leavell (keys, Rolling Stones), Michael Bland (drums, Prince) and Steve Evans (bass).
More information at:
3. II Big
A mainstay on the Northern California music scene since 1994, II Big has stayed true to the original vision of founder and drummer Ken Ingels - these guys come to rock. Each of the four current members bring passion and perfectionism into the incredible chemistry of the band. Aubrey Hansen (guitar and vocals), bassist Steve Lamun, guitarist Indiana Slim and drummer Ingels come together to bring you ‘Brand New Classic Rock’.
More information at:
4. The Stick Martin Show
Stick Martin was an introverted middle child who may not have received enough attention while growing up in Pennsylvania. He began writing rap songs and messing around with drum machines at age 9. At 15 he began playing guitar and attempting to sing songs in tune. At 20 he started getting good at it.
In 2004, Stick embarked on his first national tour with Crafty Records label-mate, Brook Pridemore. Stick and Brook went up and down the east coast and deep into the midwest on what was titled the Acoustic Invasion tour. They played to small crowds mostly, but found out what it was like to live in a van and travel the country. In 2006, Stick Martin Show released their second full-length album, Black Samurai. Black Samurai was harder hitting and funkier than Officer Murphy. It ends with the epic "The Tale of Captain McNail," the band’s first masterpiece.
In 2008, the band released Thrilla. This album focused heavily on the band’s hip-hop side. It had very little rock and even less country. It is their best selling album to date. Thrilla was supported by an east coast tour. Stick and Harlow hit the road with a guest drummer and a van full of CDs and T-shirts.
A show in Savannah, GA, was recorded and released as the band’s first and only live album, entitled Ball Sweat and Tears. Stick and Harlow played with various drummers over the years until finally hooking up with their current drummer, Gerald Pilkey in 2009. Gerald provided the hard rocking, punk edge and the swinging funk the band had been looking for.
In early 2012, the band added sax player and percussionist Ace Williams. Ace rounded out the sound and added a jazzy element to the band’s improvisations. The band recently bought the rights to their first four albums, and have made them all available for free on their website.
More information, remixes and demos at:
5. Amanda Gray and Whiskey Savage
If you’re looking for raw, kick your teeth in country music, you’ve found it. Amanda Gray and her band are, to put it simply, not the kind you take home to mama. With a decidedly modern country/ southern rock style and an amplified stage show, it’s no wonder Amanda has heads turnin’ and people talkin’. While she stays true to her country roots with crowd favorites from Merle Haggard and Hank Williams Jr., Amanda Gray turns up the bass and gets loud with covers from country/ rock singers Miranda Lambert, Jason Aldean, and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
"It’s all I know. It’s pretty much all I know how to be, how to do... I’ll be washing dishes and start thinking of a song lyric and have to rush to find a pen and something to write on. My poor husband. Sometimes if I’m really stuck on a song I can’t even function, it’s like I can’t think about anything else but getting my thoughts and that moment down, and documented."
So it’s no surprise that she’s quickly becoming known for her original music.
"Melodically, I could be a bit better and I promise I’m working on it," she admits. "But I think my strength is that I don’t try to write about things I don’t know. Every song you hear is connected to me in some way, at some point I’ve been there. Like My Side of The Bridge. I was seriously sitting in the truck with my husband, trying to figure out somewhere we could go drink and the only place open was the one bar I’d been kicked out of. I was like, how ironic. Screw them. And I started singing about it."
Old Gravel Road seems to be another song that fans can’t get enough of. "We go places," Amanda says, "And get requests for ‘that song about your husband’s brother.’"
It’s so true to life and the way things happened that year Jesse died, and the way Nick (her husband) felt that it’s sometimes really, really difficult to sing. But that’s what makes music so amazing.
As a rising west coast country singer/songwriter, Amanda has had the opportunity to open for and play with Nashville recording artists Jerrod Niemann (#1 single Lover, Lover), Chuck Wicks, Kristy O. from Bomshel, Jaron and the Long Road to Love, and Mark Chesnutt, as well as play to thousands of music fans at festivals like the annual Redwood Run and various county fairs. Amanda Gray and Whiskey Savage reminds you there ain’t nothing wrong with having a good time.
More information at:
Photos by Jessica Gardner