‘Tennessee Mojo’ – Album Review
The Cadillac Three are primed to become one of the hottest country/rock acts in the US. Having previously existed in the form of several other bands, they released an album independently in 2012 before signing with Big Machine Records early in 2013. Since then they have been quietly prepping their major label debut, releasing first single ‘The South’ to country radio and at the end of last year putting together ‘Tennessee Mojo’ a repackaging of their independent release with a few new Big Machine-recorded songs for the UK market. Acting as a great bridge between their old and new material, it is the perfect way for fans to get acquainted with them before they take the country world by storm.
Led by top Nashville songwriter and charismatic frontman Jaren Johnston (Keith Urban, Dierks Bentley, Jake Owen, Tim McGraw, Frankie Ballard and Danielle Bradbery, to name a few), there’s little way the trio can go wrong, especially when the other two members, drummer Neil Mason and guitarist Kelby Ray, are also so talented. Sonically they fit somewhere in the fold of new southern rock, part Eric Church, part Whiskey Myers, 100% attitude. As cheesy as that may sound, they represent a part of country music that is desperately needed: edgy, in-your-face, but not obnoxious and with plenty of clever songwriting that doesn’t sacrifice some of the substance country radio is currently missing. Of course, there are also plenty of fun party anthems too, but luckily we’re saved from the clichéd laundry list countryisms (for the most part), in songs such as ‘Get Your Buzz On’, catchy riff-heavy opener ‘I’m Southern’ and ‘Days of Gold’ (recorded by Jake Owen for his 2013 album of the same name, but sounding far, far better by The Cadillac Three).
There’s plenty of heartbreak tracks too, led by the perhaps unexpected ‘I’m Rockin’’ (think Jason Aldean’s ‘The Truth’ thematically), the laid-back, sexy but dripping in pain ‘Down To The River’, beautiful ballad ‘White Lightning’ and the bluesy, Blackberry Smoke-esque ‘Whiskey Soaked Redemption’. Throughout we are treated to Jaren’s heavily husky, very southern, very rock ‘n’ roll vocals, the likes of which I’ve never heard to this degree before. Sliding like honey over the tracks, his voice’s grit catches on each note that just makes it sing. Then there’s the tributes to the southern lifestyle and culture, of which there are many, lead single ‘The South’, ‘The Sticks’ and ‘Turn It On’, and random highlights such as the insanely catchy ‘Life’ about a shotgun wedding.
The danger with a lot of heavy bands, and something that I find myself as someone not always a fan of rock, is that the heaviness sacrifices lyrics and melody and becomes too aggressive and in your face. With The Cadillac Three, the strength of Jaren’s and the others’ songwriting means that each song could be interpreted into a different genre and not lose too much of its imprint. Put simply, they’re just great songs, and the production is fabulous, always leaving enough space for everything to breathe.
One of the best bands I’ve heard in the past couple of years, I have nothing but excitement for new music. Their songcraft and musicianship is pure brilliance and while their music definitely rocks out far more than most of their contemporaries, they know just the right amount of twang to throw in to give it the perfect mixture. You’re going to be hearing a lot more of The Cadillac Three in years to come, but why wait? Check out ‘Tennessee Mojo’ now.
by Vickye Fisher