Saturday, June 1, 2013


Artist: McKenzie's Mill
Venue: Longbranch Raleigh
City: Raleigh, NC
Date: May 9, 2013

McKenzies Mill is a southern rock/country duo comprised of Justin and Ryan Harris, backed by Shane Hoskins, Paul Newton, Ben King, and Nick Goodale.  McKenzie's Mill is high energy Southern Fried Rock & Roll – “ it’s a little bit country it’s a little bit rock and roll, it’s country songs, it’s real life, with screaming guitar solos” – Official EPK  

The band got their name after the name of the road the brothers grew up on in West End NC and where their parents still live.

Our team member, Ingrid, was on hand in Raleigh, NC to cover MM's performance at Longbranch Raleigh on May 9, 2013. Here's what she said to say about when she first heard of the band back in 2011 and how much of an impression they made on her then, her review of their show in Raleigh and a little behind the scenes on the interview she did with them for the site.

Rapids Jam - Roanoke Rapids, NC 2011 ...

I first heard McKenzies Mill when Jenn (Lovin' Lyrics) and I were at Rapids Jam in Roanoke Rapids, NC back in 2011. I hadn't been feeling very well and was way across on the other side of the festival area when out of nowhere, I heard this incredible noise, good noise from all the way across the field.  I headed right over to check it out. On stage, was a group of guys just rocking it! I mean amazing performance ... and the harmonica performance ... WOW.  I’d later discover the person playing the harmonica was Ryan Harris. Their sound was harder edged then I normally listened to, but I loved it. I went over to the merchandise booth. Two cds:  One with a cover of 3 guys was called “One Hell of A Ride”, the other, a black covered “McKenzies Mill.” I decided to get the first cover, but something made me return for the second cd before we left, and boy am I glad that I did. I’d discover the song "Houston" on that McKenzies Mill cd, my 2011 song pick of the year! It’s a powerful, incredible rock ballad. I’d later find out that the guy in the middle of that first cd was the “Houston” - the person the song is written about, a band member and amazing guitar player that died in a tragic car accident in 2007. Before leaving Rapids Jam, I gave Justin and Ryan Jenn’s card and we kept in touch over the years through Twitter.

Performance at the Longbranch Raleigh ...

Opening the show with Tom Petty’s "Won’t Back Down", these guys showed right of the bat that they can sing rock! Justin and Ryan both have very good voices, each a little different and just enough difference that blends perfectly together to create Southern Fried Rock & Roll (as they call it). It’s high energy, it’s good and it keeps your attention. These guys definitely have a stage presence. Leading in next with the Allman Brothers Band "Whipping Post" just showed that off more in addition to highlighting the band's ability to actually play rock and not just sing it. 

I was able to hear some of my favorites from their first and second cds like “Route 76”, “Houston” and “Don’t Know The Road I’m On”. I have more favorites from those cds and both are more than worthy of a spin. Their latest song, “Cause I Can,” written with a couple of girlfriends in Nashville, is my favorite of the night (except for "Houston", of course). It’s good! I can’t wait until it is released, it’ll definitely be on my repeat play…

A little taste of the song for you ... it goes a little something like this…

 …. People like you, always running your mouth, when you don’t even know just what you’re talking about …. Damn right I shoot a little whiskey, damn right I roll a little smoke …. What you get is what you see ... I don’t give a damn, I am who I am … Cause I can … 

They went on to play three sets total, giving the audience a glimpse of their musical ability with a good variety from Bob Dylan, Eric Church, Blackfoot and more of their own music as well. "Copperhead Road" got the crowd on the dance floor for some line dancing fun. There was something for everyone.
I was very impressed with their stage presence, and their ability to just simply sing. Both Justin and Ryan can hit those notes (especially Justin). I caught myself shaking my head in amazement more than once during the night. Seriously, at one point Justin made a comment about their music being "country meets 80’s hair band" and he was right on target because that's exactly what it is. Remember those incredible high notes of that era? Yep, Justin. These guys are definitely a high energy group and make for a fun night of great music. 

Another thing I really liked about the band was their interaction with the audience. It was obvious that there were several in the audience who were more than familiar with their music and sang each songs word for word. It was nice to see that Justin and Ryan recognized these fans, interacted with them and played their favorites. Wait, just like ME! One of my favorite parts of the night was when Justin is telling the story of how I met the band, how we kept up with each other and how they were playing song “Houston” for me. 

I guess McKenzies Mills sums it up best themselves. In their EPK, they talk about their concerts – “We’re a working man’s band and we don’t take anything for granted…10 people in a room or 10,000 , you get the same show because we are so grateful that everyone is there, they bought a ticket, and they came to see us, gave us the opportunity to do what we love to do so much.”  After seeing these guys live twice now, I can absolutely say that’s a true statement.  

I’d definitely coming see these guys perform again.  Wait, I can, they’ll be back at the Longbranch Raleigh in September. I’m looking forward to it. 

The Interview ...

What a delight to interview these guys, right from the start they were approachable, engaging and open.  They had just finished a kick-ass, I mean KICK-ASS show when they sat down with me to talk about who they were, where they'd been, and where were they going …

A Little About "Houston" ...

No, its not a place.  No it’s not NASA calling. As I said, when I first met McKenzies Mill at Rapids Jam in 2011, I purchased both of their cds and discovered an amazing song called “Houston.” It was my 2011 song pick of the year! I listened to that song every day for a year! No lie. I don’t know what drew me to this song but it was powerful. It had everything an incredible rock ballad should have and it told a story about transcending tragedy.  I loved it.    

How excited was I when Jenn told me that McKenzies Mill was willing to give an interview. When they agreed to extend the interview so we could talk more in depth about “Houston”, I was thrilled. The interview is worth a listen. I still can’t believe that if I hadn’t listened to my gut and gone back and gotten that McKenzies Mill cd, I would have never discovered “Houston” and would have never "met" Matt “Houston” Barnes and learn about how an incredible friend, guitar player and inspiration he was.   

You can find McKenzies Mill online at and engage with them on Twitter at @mckenziesmill. Their music is available for purchase on iTunes.

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