When guitarist/vocalist Michael Lee Firkins first appeared on the national scene he was heralded as instrumental rock's new Guitar God and immediately labeled the "next big thing." Music industry vets extolled the virtues of Firkins' high-octane pick-less prowess, roots music sensibility, and Jeff Beck-inspired whammy bar-driven slide-guitar voicings.
After five long years, the guitar hero returns with a new album, new attitude and fresh musical perspective.
"In that time I found out what I was capable of as a musician," says Firkins.
Firkins' new record, "Yep", is an authentic mixture mixture of ballsy blues, sh*#-kickin' rock, Cajun boogie, and country twang, featuring Gov't Mule drummer Matt Abts, bassist Andy Hess (Steve Kimock, Gov't Mule, The Black Crowes), and blues-rock piano and organ man extraordinaire Chuck Leavell (The Allman Brothers Band, Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton).
"Chuck was very instrumental in directing everything to make sure it went down right away," says Firkins. "And, of course, he's an incredible musician. Chuck could place his hands anywhere on the piano and it would always sound in time."
The guitar hero's musical evolution is evident on tracks such as "Back to Where It All Began", "Long Day", "Standing Ovation" and the two-part "No More Angry Man." The title, itself, is a kind of ode to Firkins' newfound no-nonsense attitude and ability to get on with things.
"I wasn't looking to make any grand statement with the title of the album or the cover," says Firkins. "There is a country twang on the record and I wanted people to know that this is it. What you see is what you get."
Multi-flavored tracks, such as "Long Day", "Out of Season", "Cajun Boogie" and "Take Me Back" were all recorded live, showcasing the musical interplay between Firkins, Leavell, Abts and Hess.
"What you hear is exactly how they played it," says Firkins. "They didn't punch in and do weird overdubs. It's just those three guys playing together from beginning to end, together live."
No BS. "Yep" is just straight up roots fusion served by an undisputed maestro of musical ceremonies, who sacrificed aspects of himself to deliver a hard-won message. It's that simple, that gut wrenching, that deep. And, yep, the album is that damn good.
Progressive Rock & Progressive Metal - E-ZINE