Everyone knows the devil went down to Georgia. Only a few know he drove there in a Cadillac.
This past Friday night, a trio of long haired good ole boys took the stage at Philadelphia’s famed Theater of Living Arts, rocking a capacity crowd with a sound best described as ZZ Top meets Kenny Chesney meets Poison meets Aerosmith meets Hank Williams (with a dose of Steel Panther thrown in for good measure).
The Cadillac Three is a modern day Stillwater — a band on the brink of crossing over from almost famous to big stadium headliner. The band members met in high school, navigated a couple of name changes and toured as openers for the likes of ZZ Top. TC3, as their fans often shorthand the band’s name, also recently made their debut on PBS’ Front and Center. It’s the kind of evolution the phrase “breakout star” was made for.
The TLA concert was the latest stop on The Cadillac Three’s “Black Roses Tour” to support its new album on Big Machine Records: Bury Me in My Boots.
The three members of the band — singer-guitarist Jaren Johnston, lap-steel player Kelby Ray and drummer Neil Mason — put out a sound they describe as country fuzz. It’s a good description, but it doesn’t do their music quite the justice it deserves. Nothing in their sound feels forced. Whether coming through car speakers or blasting from powerful monitors on the TLA stage, the production quality is more Bruce Springteen’s “The Rising” or Van Halen’s “5150” than Nashville twang or country pop.
TC3’s catalog is a book of stories about the band’s life. There’s a strong mix of debauchery and tenderness that many bands find difficult to pull off. From their pedal to the metal breakout hit “I’m Southern” to the Bimmy Juffett inspired “Ship Faced” to the pure sex of the fast-paced “Slide” to the longing of “Running Red Lights,” it’s abundantly evident these guys know how to connect to an audience.
It should be no surprise to learn that Johnston is also the pen behind hits from bigger, established artists like Keith Urban and Jake Owen. And if you listen closely, you’ll catch him cleverly peppering the band’s lyrics with a host of other famous names.
The interaction on stage between the members of The Cadillac Three is not unlike watching the interplay of a seasoned, 40 year old band like RUSH. The performance is tight without feeling scripted. The sound is bigger than three humans playing a guitar, slide and drums should be able to pump out. And the connection to their fans is genuine.
The Cadillac Three is a band you want on your radar to say you knew them when.
Check out some of the photos from the concert below (you can find the full gallery here).