Blame it on the heady highs in the air that permeate the Black Mountains of North Carolina, but the state has produced an artist in Rory Kelly that will surely bring new dimension to the tour de force that is America’s beloved Southern Rock. Possessing a playing ability in league with prodigies, Kelly is a self-taught musician that picked up the guitar as a boy and cut his chops in the rural town of Marion. While his mother slung drinks behind the bar, Rory strummed alongside his father, drummer Mike Kelly, in a family dominated house band in a local music dive. Mike Kelly has quite the backstory in thrash metal as well, being part of the infamous Old Bridge Militia of thrash metal fame.
Tapped a few years later, first by heavy metal outfit Intethod and later by Asheville based sleaze masters, the Crank County Daredevils, who found success both in the US and abroad; Kelly developed a keen ear, and playing ability to match, for what would develop into an ever widening spectrum of rock n roll sensibilities. After the unforeseen dissolution of Crank County, in 2010 Rory Kelly began to hone his own dirty rock n’ roll based signature sound and recruited his former musical partner and father Mike to form two-thirds of what would ultimately become their current band. Together they recorded, and Rory Kelly produced, what critics deemed a “swamp rock” sound in their first release, Better Than The Blues.
When demand for that record began to outweigh supply, Rory Kelly began to branch out regionally, playing live with a hired gun on bass and gaining footholds with venues and audiences throughout both the Carolinas. In March of 2011 they scored a coveted series of showcases with Texas Rockfest, which takes place in the heart of downtown Austin, Texas each year during the world famous South By Southwest music conference. Those showcases brought Kelly interest from endorsement companies and rekindled a connection between him and Rusty Knuckles, his former label from the Crank County days, that was in the midst of successfully developing its’ own niche signing renegade artists from within the ranks of southern sleaze. Summer ’11 brought more recognition to Rory Kelly as they were thrust into and embraced by the Southern biker circuit and a permanent bass player joined their ranks. Billy Miller, also a seasoned musician from touring gigs with Voodou and Super Sport, brought the final element needed to round out this dirty rock n’ roll trio, forming a mercurial rhythm section with the elder Kelly to compliment the smoldering swagger of Kelly’s rock riffs.
The addition of Miller has brought a new dynamic into the band and, with that, an ever evolving definition of what Southern Rock means to Rory Kelly and how they intend to translate that to their followers. The new album is done and scheduled for release in late Spring of 2012, and has captured the interest of well-known NC radio personality Steve Blanton who will assist Kelly in the production of their second effort. Revealing a band edging toward a harder sound, (Don’t Shake My) Family Tree, will be released to world-wide distribution through Rusty Knuckles with both US and European tours planned for early 2012 in support of the record.
– Tammy Moore