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REVIEW: The Cadillac Three – Country Fuzz – Far Out, Funky & Oh, So Very TC3

Photo courtesy of 90 East Photography/Think Country

REVIEW:  COUNTRY FUZZ by The Cadillac Three (Big Machine Label Group/February 7, 2020)

There’s been a massive build up to the new The Cadillac Three album Country Fuzz.  They’ve been promoting it for what seems like forever.  The album cover is etched in my brain and it’s not even here yet.  The expectations are high.  If it’s a flop, there will be a whole bunch of disappointed people.  I couldn’t wait to get my ears on the advanced copy and hear what all the “buzz about the fuzz” was.  Listen up!  If you’re already a fan of these guys, my prediction is you’re going to become a bigger fan.  If you’re just deciding maybe the time is right to try something new, this is a good place to start because The Cadillac Three have gone a little off the rails with this one and done a little remodeling of their sound here and there.  Not huge changes, but enough to notice.  Listen to this one and if you like it, go ahead and work your way backward through their catalog.

What I love and find so captivating about The Cadillac Three is they are an absolute enigma in country music.  I think about this a lot.  These three guys write and perform songs about the way they live.  Sure, there have always been country singers that do that, but just go to one of their shows.  They make no apologies for whatever happens.  Curse words, drinks on stage, songs about smoking weed.  It’s all right out there and they’re not just singing lyrics, they’re living them.  That said, they also manage to handle a heavy touring schedule.  They show up to gigs.  They’re writing songs for other artists.  Their shows come off great.  They each have family lives.  They’re living a rock and roll lifestyle while maintaining a well-run business, albeit they have people to take care of the business minutia, without the band themselves, there would be nothing at all.  If they drop the ball, the whole thing collapses, yet it just keeps moving forward.

Photo courtesy of The Cadillac Three

What else I marvel at is the fact that unlike other artists that lived in the fast lane (think Mötley Crüe, Johnny Cash), I never get the sense that these guys are going to one day just crash.  I always feel like they are in control of when to end things.  No matter how much they drink or smoke or push themselves, they’ll decide if they want to collectively call it quits.  They’re amazingly in control for three guys who are experts at giving off a persona of being forever on the edge.  I honestly can’t even think of another band or solo artist that’s been able to do that.  Let’s not forget either, that they’re signed to a major record label to boot.  Bonus points for keeping that relationship fully intact.   So, what about Country Fuzz?  Was all the hoopla worth it?  There were definitely some things that stood out about it for me.  I’ll shoot you the highlights.

Photo courtesy of The Cadillac Three

While the entire Country Fuzz album releases February 7th, 2020, several songs have already been released.  A decent batch of tunes to keep the fans appeased during the waiting period, but at last we’re in the homestretch and release day is right around the corner.

Image courtesy of The Cadillac Three

Having had access to all 16 songs for a while now, it’s taken me all that time to decide which ones to write about because honestly, if ever there was a hard choice to make, this was it.  There’s so much to say!  I finally threw up my hands and did what I usually do, pretended we were all just sitting around having a few beers and I thought I’d tell you about this new record I bought.  I don’t want to put you to sleep so I’ll tell you what I think are the best parts and why you should go out and get it.  I’ll tell those of you who have been TC3 fans all along what, in my mind, they’ve done a little differently and whether or not that’s a good thing.  If that’s okay with you, let’s crack one open and have at it.

For those of you that aren’t all that familiar with The Cadillac Three, a quick primer on who’s who.  On lead vocals and guitar is Jaren Johnston.  Neil Mason is the drummer and last, but never least, there’s Kelby Ray on lap steel.  That’s it.  If you see them live, you’ll understand, that’s all that’s needed.  When talking power trios, don’t forget to mention these three.  As if it’s going to be a big surprise, a running theme on Country Fuzz, is partying.  Saturday nights are popular too.  Of course, we are talking about The Cadillac Three here.  I don’t know why I’m even wasting my time talking about this, but not everyone is a veteran.  I’m trying to be inclusive to the newcomers.

Photo courtesy of 90 East Photography/Think Country

It’s been out as a single for a bit now, but there’s no way it can go without a big old tip of the ball cap.  “Hard Out Here For A Country Boy” (Jaren Johnston, Neil Mason, Jeremy Stover) is a big, fat win and that’s that.  Wrangling up that master entertainer Chris Janson to lend his voice and harmonica to this one was the ultimate proof that the three long hairs that play hard and party harder can also play nice with others.  Janson, who has openly admitted his days of heavy partying are long over and if he does rarely have a drink, it’s a nice martini, doesn’t seem to fit in with the wild TC3 boys, but you just never know, now do you?  He sings a verse in this song and gets a harmonica solo in as well.  The other featured guest, Travis Tritt, with his booming southern voice, is fun to hear in there too.  There’s absolutely nothing to dislike about  this song unless you just have something against having a good time.

Video courtesy of The Cadillac Three and YouTube

“Slow Rollin'” (Jaren Johnston, Neil Mason) starts off with a heavy rock vibe and that made me know I was going to like it from the get-go.  This might be the one track on the album that is a throwback to The Cadillac Three’s earliest outings.  It pulls no punches, it’s an in-your-face country rock jam meant to take you through a cruise through the south the TC3 way.  Crank this one up and let it ooze into your ears.  Name drops galore sprinkled throughout.  Go ahead and see if you can catch ’em all in one spin.  A virtual shot of Sinatra Select to Jaren and Neil for writing it.  A well-crafted whiskey for a well-crafted song.  Hot damn.

Video courtesy of The Cadillac Three and YouTube

As long as names are being dropped, let’s continue that.  “All The Makin’s Of A Saturday Night” (Jaren Johnston, Neil Mason, Josh Dunne) took the liberty to throw out some hefty names.  Conway, Cash and Haggard to name a few and most importantly, I love the little dig they got in at Chris Janson.  All in good fun, of course, but perfect, nonetheless.  Any mention of drinkin’, smokin’ and women?  Naturally!  These aren’t the Osmond Brothers and they aren’t wearing matching polyester adorned with rhinestones.  This is The Cadillac Three.  Know the product.  Embrace it.

This next track is something else.  It’s tied for my personal favorite on the album.  “Labels” (Neil Mason, Corey Crowder, Luke Dick) stands out as the one song that truly shows off the unique direction TC3 took with Country Fuzz.  It has a funky, R&B swagger that grabs you immediately.  This band took a risk by putting this on an album and now they should really get out there and be different and make it a single.  The lyrics are meaningful and speak to what people have been feeling since the beginning of time.  To have this band, who many just consider long-haired Nashville guys that do nothing more than sing about weed, whiskey and women, come up with this rhythmic piece of funked-up poetry is extraordinary.

Photo courtesy of 90 East Photography/Think Country

“Raise Hell” (Jaren Johnston) is my other favorite.  I had a problem with it though.  I had questions.  Serious ones, you know, the kind that you feel like you almost can’t wait to have answered but there’s not much you can do but hang on and hope that someday you find out.  This could just be a song Johnston wrote in 20 minutes and never thought much about again until they recorded it.  Unfortunately for the hamster wheel spinning in my brain like mad, that’s not how I heard it.  I had to review this record and all of a sudden I was forming this crazy scenario of what he may have been thinking when he wrote it.  Deep stuff.  How do you shut that off?  Since I have no idea where his head was at, I’ll just say, I’m going with my own thoughts until I have the opportunity to ask him, but when you hear it, really pay attention.  It’s a good song any way you slice it.  Musically and lyrically it’s right on the money.  How can you go wrong with a line like this?

“It’s tough to get in Heaven, if all you wanna do is raise Hell”

I can’t wreck this song for you.  I am so tempted to just spill out more lyrics, but you can go find them on someone else’s review.  Google them.  Do whatever you want to find them early, but not on my watch.  Not since “Legacy” have I felt like Johnston has ripped open a piece of himself as much as he has with this song.  Again, maybe it’s just me.  Maybe I’m reading more into it than I should be, but I sense something was going on the day he wrote this one down.  It’s an eerie melody coupled with one of those “day of reckoning” moments where someone just does a battle inside their own head.  You’ve made your bed and you’re going to lie in it but you wonder if you should have done things differently to some extent.  Not everything, because you know you did a lot of things right and you liked a lot of what you did.  Would it even have been worth it to do them differently?  Was the bill worth the purchase?  That sort of thing.  One thing about “Raise Hell” is that it is, without a doubt, a TC3 song.  It’s not cheesy, it’s not a steaming pile of mush, it’s got some edge to it.  It just reaches into your head and makes you think while you’re downing that “one more” that you said was “one more” six or seven “one mores” ago.  

Photo courtesy of 90 East Photography/Think Country

“Back Home” (James McNair, Chris Tompkins, Craig Wiseman) is a fairly simple number about someone seeing changes in the place they’ve always known and finding solace in returning to an area that looks a lot more familiar.   The mention of cranes all around might be your first hint that it’s about Nashville.  If you’ve been here lately, it’s almost impossible to count them all.  There are so many.  Although, take a drive a little bit outside the city and you’re right back to rolling hills, green space and serenity.  It doesn’t matter if  Jaren Johnston is singing about Nashville, New York City or Minneapolis.  Wherever home is to you, that’s what you need to take away from this tune.  He’s talking about where he feels at home.  Maybe you’re living in the middle of a one-horse town with no Wifi signal and you wish you were back in your high-rise in Dallas.  If that’s “back home” for you, then try and feel the song that way.  It’s a slower track, but again, it’s not sappy.  It’s got a good beat and you know exactly who it is.  That’s the one thing this band can be counted on for, they are distinctly themselves, even though they’ve done some things a little differently with this record, they’ve remained true to who they’ve always been.  Their roots are strong, their branches have just blossomed a little bit.  There’s never anything wrong with that.  A stagnant band is a dead band in my mind.

If you’re ready for one that just keeps escalating in tempo as the song progresses, hang on tight for “Jack Daniels’ Heart” (Neil Mason, Josh Dunne).  Here we have a poor, poor soul who enters a bar prepared to drown his sorrows and erase the memory of the sweet thing who just dumped his ass, but alas, none of the elixirs his bartender pours seems to be working.  Not until he reaches for the one that’s a guaranteed magic potion, the mighty Jack Daniels whiskey.  Now, that’ll fix you up old boy!  This leads our friend to wonder who broke Jack Daniels’ heart.  It must have been shattered to pieces if he needed to create a liquor so perfect and so strong that it could take his mind off the grief he was feeling.  Never fear though, this is no “tear in my beer” song.  Not by the longest of shots.  By the end of this one any two-steppin’ you may have attempted will end up looking like a drunken game of Twister.  Yeah, it’s fast and it’s furious.  Clever too.  Go on.  Get yourself some of Tennessee’s finest whiskey and dance to it.  Take video.  I’ll wait.

Want a hot one?  It doesn’t get any hotter than “Heat” (Jaren Johnston, Neil Mason, Kelby Ray Caldwell, Jimmy Robbins).  There’s that funk groove again.  Stretching their musical legs, The Cadillac Three shows they’ve got more under those ball caps than long hair.  They can create sounds that don’t follow any set pattern of what we think they’re going to do next.  They’re keeping us guessing and that’s just mysteriously delicious.  This song is simultaneously strong and sexy.  Served up with a little top shelf tequila and you’re in for something.  I’m not sure what, but it’s bound to be mysteriously delicious too.  Try it.  Take video.  I’ll wait.

Photo courtesy of 90 East Photography/Think Country

The last one I’ve got to give a hand to is the last track on the album.  It’s what I’ll call Jaren’s version of a love song.  “Long After Last Call” (Jaren Johnston), when stripped down, is as country as it gets.  It’s a story song.  Set in a bar after closing.  The end.  How about you listen to it yourself and find out what happens?  No?  You want more?  Why would you want a perfectly beautiful love song demolished before you even hear it?  Truthfully, it’s an ultra-cool track and if you’re the kind of guy that just can’t get yourself anywhere near a schmaltzy love song to save your life, but you really want to say something sweet to your girl, I’ve pointed you in the right direction.  Track 16 on The Cadillac Three’s Country Fuzz album.  She may have been expecting something more, well, schmaltzy, but I promise you, once you play this and tell her you picked it out especially for her, the next thing you know, you’ll be drinking tequila and backing it up a couple tracks and playing “Heat”.  You’re welcome.  No video required.

Photo courtesy of 90 East Photography/Think Country

Bottom line.  These three long-hairs once again exceeded my expectations.  How do they do it?  They’ve added some funk, some R&B, some more rock, dropped names which is something I always welcome and best of all, they kept true to themselves.  Nobody is going to hear this record and say it doesn’t sound like TC3.  They are the enigma of the country music world.  They live on the edge but they don’t fall off because they’re in control of their own destiny.  They’re wild but they’re reined in.  They’re all over, but they’re settled.  They’re everywhere, but they’re at home.  Their fans adore them and vice versa.  If you’re a fan, keep turning people on to them.  If you have friends that say they don’t like country music, have them cut their teeth on The Cadillac Three.  They’re the gateway drug to country and there’s no 12-step program for that.

Photo courtesy of 90 East Photography/Think Country

Country Fuzz Track List

  1. “Bar Round Here” (Jaren Johnston, Neil Mason, Lori McKenna)
  2. “The Jam” (Jaren Johnston, Corey Crowder, Brian Kelley, James McNair)
  3.  “Hard Out Here For A Country Boy” (feat. Chris Janson & Travis Tritt) (Jaren Johnston, Neil Mason, Jeremy Stover)
  4.  “Slow Rollin'” (Jaren Johnston, Neil Mason)
  5.  “All The Makin’s Of A Saturday Night” (Jaren Johnston, Neil Mason, Josh Dunne)
  6. ” Crackin’ Cold Ones With The Boys” (Jaren Johnston, Neil Mason, Kelby Ray Caldwell, Benjamin Dunn, Chris Grainger, Jefferson Brown, Brandon Wooten)
  7.  “Labels” (Neil Mason, Corey Crowder, Luke Dick)
  8.  “Raise Hell” (Jaren Johnston)
  9.  “Back Home” (James McNair, Chris Tompkins, Craig Wiseman)
  10.  “Dirt Road Nights” (Jaren Johnston, Neil Mason, Jeremy Stover)
  11.  “Blue El Camino” (Jaren Johnston, Neil Mason, Adam James)
  12.  “Jack Daniels’ Heart” (Neil Mason, Josh Dunne)
  13.  “Why Ya Gotta Go Out Like That” (Jaren Johnston, Neil Mason, Ross Copperman)
  14.  “Heat” (Jaren Johnston, Neil Mason, Kelby Ray Caldwell, Jimmy Robbins)
  15.  “Whiskey and Smoke” (Jaren Johnston, Kelby Ray Caldwell, Neil Mason)
  16.  “Long After Last Call” (Jaren Johnston)


The Cadillac Three can be found:


Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheCadillacThree/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thecadillac3/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/thecadillac3

The TC3 Drinking Club:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/TC3DrinkingClub/

*Featured image courtesy of The Cadillac Three










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