by Roman Mitz, Open Spaces
Open Spaces is pleased as punch to be expanding its country coverage, beginning with an interview with Nashville’s hot Country/Southern Rock outfit The Cadillac Three. Southern style Country hasn’t graced the Top 10 charts with any consistency since Hank Williams Jr.’s heyday back in the 80’s. With any luck The Cadillac Three are about to change all of that as they launch their pulsating third CD ‘Legacy’ with a tour of Ontario followed by a hop across the pond for dates in Germany, France and England. The band, made up of singer/guitarist Jaren Johnston, drummer Neil Mason and lap-steel player Kelby Ray, is looking forward to playing some dates away from the hotbed of Southern Country.
“Yeah, I think it’s a little over-saturated in the south,” says Kelby, who is calling from Jordan, N.Y., site of the band’s last date on the U.S. portion of their current tour. “We’re in Jordan right now and we played Flint Michigan the other night, and then we’re headed for Canada. It’s been a lot of fun playing around the Great Lakes. The crowds have been rowdy and they like to have a good time. There are rednecks everywhere and we just pull them out of the woodwork. ”
Songs that serve as Redneck bait on the album include the swaggering ‘Cadillacin’’ which could be considered the band’s anthem, the Z Z Topp-ish ‘Tennessee’ and Hank & Jesus’ which glides along with a Tennessee twang. In the case of the latter song the band tips its hat to Hank Jr., who they were thrilled to open some shows for earlier in the year.
“Hank is just as cool as Z Z Top’s Billy Gibbons,” Kelby begins. “You know those guys have been doing their own thing forever. Hank Jr. was the first concert I saw when I was five years old. My mom got us front row tickets at the Nashville Amphitheatre in 1986. She’s a huge fan of Hank’s so that was what I grew up on. Jaren grew up on Garth Brooks and everything that was coming up in 80’s and 90’s country. We definitely grew up all around that so our sound is pretty authentic.”
Band vocalist Jaren Johnston is an established Nashville writer, having penned songs for the likes of Keith Urban, Tim McGraw and Ronnie Dunn. He wrote or co-wrote most of the songs on Legacy with a variety of tunesmiths, including drummer Mason and Jonathan Singleton on the infectious first single ‘Dang If We Don’t’. When it comes to playing and producing, however, Kelby explains that it’s a total ‘band thing’ with no help from the outside.
“Aside from Lori McKenna, who sang harmony on ‘Love Me Like Liquor’, the record is completely self-contained,” Kelby says. “We were playing in Boston and she showed up and that song got written in the back of the bus on that day. All of the other songs are us on our own. There’s no guest keyboard player, no second percussionist and no bassist; I hold down the low end on my lap steel. That’s the way we do it best, and it’s just something we figured out how to do over time. We go into the studio and help each other out and we know how to produce ourselves. Neil will record a drum take and we’ll kind of layer everything over that. We just knock it out, and I think that comes from being friends for over 20 years. It’s like a brotherhood kind of thing and that makes us very tight.”
Of the Redneck songs on the album ‘Long Hair Don’t Care’ may be the one that comes closest to hillbilly heaven. It’s unfortunate that the song’s lyrics may be a tad too colourful for country radio, but the band hopes that one of the other tracks cracks open the airwaves for them.
“That’s one of the hardest things to do,” admits Kelby. “That would get us to that next level of where we want to get to in terms of being a huge band. We’d love to have that radio help but we’ve struggled with that. We don’t let it get us down and we’re out there doing what we do best, playing live shows and entertaining people. We’re going to keep doing that and eventually radio is going to have to play us at some point. It’s kind of like the route Eric Church took. He was on his third or fourth record before he started getting much airplay, so we like to think we’re following in his footsteps. Before you know it,” he laughs, “we’ll be playing stadiums and arenas.”
Legacy is rife with classic country images particularly on ‘Ain’t That Country’, a perfect paean to the working man that would have made Merle Haggard proud. On this song and on the entire album it was especially important for Kelby and the rest of the band to keep it real.
“Whether you’re from a small town or a big city, a lot of people grew up around those themes and they connect with them. We wanted to keep that authenticity that’s been in country music from the beginning, so there are songs about the common man, the fighting, the loving and all of that kind of stuff. We also wanted to write about different subjects like on the title track, which is a great family song. That song says that when I go, I’m going to leave this legacy behind to my family. Jaren became a father this year and I got married, so we’ve grown up a bit since our first record and we’re doing more ‘life’ songs. When Jaren heard the song Legacy he knew he could sing it at this point in his life, and that he could be vulnerable and let his heart out a little more. It’s just that next progression of putting your heart on the page.”
The Cadillac Three recently realized a dream when they played the famed Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. The band shook the floor boards of the Mother Church of Country Music, and they hope to do the same on their tour of Ontario with Dallas Smith. Jaren co-wrote Dallas’ 2013 hit ‘Tippin’ Point’, and Smith and the band have become fast friends. In fact, the last time they were in Vancouver, Dallas took them out to dinner for some decidedly un-Redneck fare.
“Yeah, the last time we saw him he took us out to a real nice sushi restaurant,” Kelby says. “He took all of our crew as well. He’s a real sweetheart of a dude and a great performer, so it’s going to be a lot of fun. We have a lot of fun especially when we get up to Canada. It’s always rowdy as Hell so we’re looking forward to it.
The Cadillac Trio Canadian Tour Dates: http://www.thecadillacthree.com/tour
Other Country stuff:
Winnipeg’s David James will be releasing his sophomore disc, Downtown Kids’ on October 20. The six-song EP contains the previous charting songs ‘Later’ and ‘Songs About A Girl’, and the new single ‘Sun Set On It’.
Manitoba’s Doc Walker has a brand new single Sicka Whiskey, the second release to be pulled from their album, ‘Weathervane’. It’s a classic song about the healing that happens from a barstool after you get your heart broken. While Sicka Whiskey is a song about being unlucky in love, it still has the catchy lyrics and strong guitar-driven sound that the group has come to be known for
Italian export Jessie James Decker is probably best known for her starring role alongside her husband, former Denver Bronco wide receiver Eric Decker, in the E! reality show Eric & Jessie: Game On. She cut her self-titled debut album in 2009 and now she’s back with her first full length follow-up ‘Southern Girl City Lights’. The first single and album title track should follow in the tracks of her previous Top 40 hit ‘Lights Down Low’.