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With his raspy, soulful voice and salt-and-pepper hair, Taylor Hicks was one of the unlikeliest contestants to make it to the final round of American Idol, but his quirky charm and rousing delivery of songs like "Takin' It to the Streets" won Hicks a devoted legion of fans called the Soul Patrol and the title of the fifth-season American Idol. Born in Birmingham, AL, and raised in Hoover, Hicks grew up listening to classic soul artists such as Otis Redding and Sam Cooke -- which he said he could to relate to even as a child due to the divorce of his parents and other troubles -- and singer/songwriters like Van Morrison, Bob Seger, and Billy Joel. His chief influence, however, was Ray Charles, whom he admired so much that he carried a little statue of Charles with him whenever he performed. Though Hicks had no formal musical training, he picked up singing, guitar, and harmonica on his own. He began performing for his family at an early age and won a talent contest at his high school (at which time his hair started turning gray). While studying business, communication, and marketing at Auburn University, Hicks formed the Passing Through band, and left school early to try his luck in Nashville. 

As a touring performer, he opened for artists ranging from James Brown to Drive-By Truckers and also performed at the Playboy Mansion. Hicks released two albums with his band: In Your Time, a live album, and Under the Radar. In 2005, he auditioned for American Idol; the Memphis tryouts were so crowded that Hicks couldn't get in, so he went to the Las Vegas auditions. Despite the doubts of judge Simon Cowell, Hicks' differences from the typical pop star look and sound worked for him rather than against him in the competition, and his performances of "Levon," "Living for the City," and "Dancing in the Dark" helped put him over the top. After winning American Idol, Hicks signed a record deal with Clive Davis and 19 Recordings Unlimited, and released the single Do I Make You Proud that summer. Hicks also performed with the American Idol tour and began work on his major-label debut album. His self-titled debut arrived in late 2006. 

With a well-worn voice that strikes a familiar chord with old-souls and whiskey by a fire. River Dan has an energy about him that palpates through his lyrics and his foot, harp sawin’ southern folk. As singer, songwriter and musician, it’s easy to hear his early childhood influences of Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard . As he found himself in a North American sling-shot from one city to the next, a certain collaborative sound was claimed as his own.

Born in Montgomery, Alabama playing the banjo first (the precursor to a wide variety of other stringed and percussion instruments that he can pick up and melt with his hands) River Dan has always embraced the warm comfort of southern appeal in his personality and most importantly in his music. He writes about the trials and tribulations of the life of a simple man, blondes, and being a rambler.

The quick banjo pickin’ and the soothing screech of his harmonica that he keeps at ready around his neck take you back to a place in time when debutantes and chivalry got together on a Saturday night down by the river.  When River Dan sings it instantaneously transforms his audience into knee-slappin’ son-of-a-guns, with shit eating grins all over their faces.

Paul Thorn has created an innovative and impressive career, pleasing crowds with his muscular brand of roots music – bluesy, rocking and thoroughly Southern American, yet also speaking universal truths. Among those who value originality, inspiration, eccentricity and character – as well as talent that hovers somewhere on the outskirts of genius, the story of Paul Thorn is already familiar. Raised in Tupelo, Mississippi, among the same spirits (and some of the actual people) who nurtured the young Elvis generations before, Paul Thorn has rambled down back roads and jumped out of airplanes, worked for years in a furniture factory, battled four-time world champion boxer Roberto Duran on national television, signed with and been dropped by a major label, performed on stages with Bonnie Raitt, Mark Knopfler, Sting, and John Prine among many others, and made some of the most emotionally restless yet fully accessible music of our time.

He’s also appeared on major television shows such as Late Night with Conan O’Brien and Jimmy Kimmel Live, been the subject of numerous National Public Radio (NPR) features and charted multiple times on the Billboard Top 100 and Americana Radioi Charts. This year, Paul will be releasing an album titled Don’t Let the Devil Ride, which he describes as “the culmination of my whole life in music, coming back to my roots.” It marks his first time recording gospel music - featuring guests such as the Blind Boys of Alabama, the McCrary Sisters, and Preservation Hall Horns - and his creation of a body of strikingly original songs that address the foibles of human relationships without necessarily favoring the sacred over the profane.

Dynamic, powerful and thrilling are just a few words to describe The McCrary Sisters live performances. Steeped in tight soulful harmonies, the Sisters will have the audience dancing in the aisles celebrating life with words of hope and love. 

The McCrary Sisters (Ann, Deborah, Regina and Alfreda) are the daughters of the late Rev. Samuel McCrary — one of the original members of the legendary gospel quartet The Fairfield Four. The daughters were raised in harmony, singing at home and at their father’s church, but word soon spread of their individual accomplished voices and each began sharing the family vocal legacy as solo artists with a wide range of performers to include Bob Dylan, Elvis, Isaac Hayes and Stevie Wonder.
 
In 2011, the Sisters officially formed their own group, The McCrary Sisters, and have since recorded or performed with notable artists Delbert McClinton, Black Keys, Martina McBride, Eric Church, Patty Griffin, Buddy Miller, Jonny Lang, Robert Randolph, The Winans, Donnie McClurkin, Rosanne Cash, Carrie Underwood, Hank Williams Jr., Dr. John, Widespread Panic, Sheryl Crow, Maren Morris, Gregg Allman and many more.

They say the only thing consistent about change is…well, that it changes. Whether through design or destiny, that’s a precept the SteelDrivers know all too well. Throughout their career –one that encompasses four highly acclaimed albums and any number of awards and accolades –the band has demonstrated the ability to adapt to change with unwavering persistence. 

 
Their’s is a lingering legacy defined by quality and consistency. It’s one in which they’ve never stopped looking forward, successfully marshalling their resources for wherever that trajectory takes them. Ultimately, it’s all about the music. “Our dedication and determination remain intact,” says singer, songwriter and fiddler Tammy Rogers. “We honor our older music by always putting our focus on the songs. Some people describe our music as being bluegrass based, but the fact is, we’re not bound to any one regimen. 
 
I liken us to what the Rolling Stones would sound like if they played banjos, fiddles and mandolins – it’s that rock-n-roll edge played on traditional instruments. I don’t know if that’s true, but we are primarily a band that’s centered around songwriting and also just happens to have a bluegrass background.” That persistent push could be called the key to SteelDrivers’ success. 
 
Each step in their journey has created a new chapter, one that finds them building on the past but consolidating their strengths as they build for the future. That’s also been the case since the beginning, when Rogers, multi-instrumentalist Mike Henderson, bass player Mike Fleming, banjo player Richard Bailey, and singer/guitarist Chris Stapleton first convened after a series of songwriting sessions between Henderson and Stapleton. What began as a casual get-together to jam in the late summer of 2005 became a fully committed band that signed with Rounder Records in 2007.

Many musicians claim that they “grew up in the church,” but for Robert Randolph that is literally the case. The renowned pedal steel guitarist, vocalist and songwriter led such a cloistered childhood and adolescence that he heard no secular music while growing up. If it wasn’t being played inside of the House of God Church in Orange, New Jersey—quite often by Robert and members of his own family, who upheld a long but little known gospel music tradition called sacred steel—Randolph simply didn’t know it existed. Which makes it all the more remarkable that the leader of Robert Randolph and the Family Band—whose label debut for Sony Masterworks, Got Soul, is today an inspiration to the likes of Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana and Derek Trucks, all of whom have played with him and studied his technique. It wasn’t until he was out of his teens that Randolph broke away from the confines of his social and musical conditioning and discovered rock, funk, soul, jazz and the jam band scene, soon forging his own sound by fusing elements of those genres.

 

 "…an extraordinarily talented Alabama guitar man that will make you feel his emotion and heart in every single note.”

Twelve years after his birth in Boaz, Alabama, Chris begged his mom for his first guitar…

It didn’t take long before Simmons realized he wanted to be a professional musician. He joined his first band at 15. At age 20, he decided one day to load up his musical gear and whatever else would fit in his van and hit the road. From there, Simmons roamed the southeast playing southern rock and blues in bars, house parties, etc. Later, he was introduced to the musical mecca of Austin, Tx. He made Austin his new home in 2001. There, Simmons started Ultrasonic, and spent five years playing legendary venues such as The Steamboat, Antone’s and the “Saxon Pub.”

He now lives just south of Huntsville, AL in the Lacey Springs community when he’s not traveling.

Leon Russell, Simmons’ former employer from 2007- 2012, has had a very strong influence. Russell is an American musician and songwriter who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011.

His interest in guitar was initially sparked by ANGUS YOUNG, guitarist of AC/DC. His longing for more knowledge of the blues led him on to, CHUCK BERRY, ERIC CLAPTON with Cream, Blind Faith, Derek and the Dominoes and DUANE ALLMAN and the Allman Brothers Band. Also on the list are DEREK TRUCKS, Aubrey Ghent, and PETER GREEN. It was these guitar legends that further led him to study the older blues pioneers like, ROBERT JOHNSON, MUDDY WATERS, FREDDIE, ALBERT AND BB KING. Johnson is at the top for acoustic blues, Waters for the real electrified blues, the 3 Kings when it comes to the blues solo guitar.

Among his favorite singers.. MUDDY WATERS, OTIS REDDING, PAUL RODGERS, FREDDIE KING, BB KING.

He has been playing the guitar now for more than a quarter of a century. He’s been traveling and performing professionally for the last 18 of those years. Over the 5 years sharing the stage with Leon, he traveled the world, making friends and fans at every stop.

“We have fun. We take the music seriously, but we don’t take ourselves too

seriously … we have fun with it, and we have fun with the audience” said Simmons.

 

I hit a wall,” says Will Hoge. “I was doing the best touring of my career and I had a great, steady gig writing songs, but I was falling out of love with being in a band. I didn’t have a good answer when I asked myself, ‘Why am I still doing this?’ So I walked away. I had to figure out what was next.”

For Hoge, what came next was a quest to reclaim the joy and the magic that had drawn him to music in the first place. He let his band go and hit the road for roughly a year of solo shows, crisscrossing the country by himself with just a guitar and a keyboard. He felt rejuvenated by the freedom and began writing material that reenergized him, that made him feel like a kid falling in love with rock and roll all over again. Those songs ignited a dormant flame somewhere deep within Hoge’s soul, and now they form the bulk of Anchors, his strongest and most nuanced album to date. 

 

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