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The Cadillac Three - Country Fuzz (Album Review)

Wednesday, 12 February 2020 Written by Simon Ramsay

Roughly halfway through this stylistically scopious banger from the Cadillac Three, a track arrives that musically and lyrically epitomises the essence of both the band and their new record. Over an unexpected chunk of fuzzed up space-funk, Jaren Johnston sings, “Nobody wants to be a label, you can’t judge a record by its cover ‘til you hear it spinning on the turntable, there’s always more behind a title.” Familiar yet fresh, experimental while striking vintage poses galore, ‘Country Fuzz’ once again proves there’s more to these Nashville natives than meets the eye.

Keen to get back to basics, 2017’s ‘Legacy’ was a more soulful and rootsy affair that highlighted the fact that the Cadillac Three, despite giving off an air of permanently sloshed ‘n’ stoned party animals, possess serious artistic muscle and the ability to surprise. Although very different to its predecessor, that’s exactly what they’ve done again on ‘Country Fuzz’, a title that perfectly encapsulates their patented hybrid of swampy southern rock ‘n’ roll, grunge, country, blues and metal.

Arriving as a more natural sounding follow up to, or evolutionary step forward from, 2016’s ‘Bury Me In My Boots’, ‘Country Fuzz’ pours out a stream of irrepressible beer-chugging anthems (Bar Round Here, Crackin’ Cold Ones With The Boys), grizzled bruisers (Slow Rollin’) and frantic country hoedowns (Jack Daniels’ Heart) as they hit all the expected marks with a deceptive level of craftsmanship. Their less lauded sensitive side, meanwhile, rears its beautifully soulful head with the moist-eyed nostalgia of Dirt Road Nights and Long After Last Call’s pledge of devotion.  

On the surface it may seem like the Cadillac Three are merely doing what they do best, but that ignores the subtly inventive songwriters and musicians they are. For example, what could have been a banal bro-country workout—Hard Out Here For A Country Boy—is rendered as a cheeky mud-kickin’ grinder, replete with tasty barbecued hook and bluesy harmonica and slide explosions to fuel its gnarly, heavy jam outro.  

Throughout this album the Cadillac Three enrich their unique sound with twists that neither dominate proceedings nor elicit a WTF? reaction. Crucial to this is a penchant for unleashing contagious, unstoppable grooves. Thus, adding a bubbling keg of funky new treats isn’t exactly a volte face.

The Jam’s pumping refrain surfs an almost disco-like rhythmic wave, Blue El Camino is a frisky dancefloor botherer with shades of Prince stamped into its pulsing purple sequins and All The Makin’s Of A Saturday Night and Whiskey And Smoke, with its stacked-to-the-rafters choir of hollering vocals, peddle serious quantities of booty-shaking infectiousness.   

A pivotal part of how they push the envelope without losing their identity is also Johnston’s idiosyncratic guitar work. Expertly integrating myriad styles into his aesthetic, a down and dirty rainbow of textures enliven songs that, when partnered with instinctive structural detours, Kelby Ray’s distinct lap steel-bass combo and Neal Mason’s powerfully dexterous drumming, find the trio bending numerous genres to their will without hurdling any sharks.

The Cadillac Three have repeatedly claimed they want to be the biggest band in the world. Although ‘Country Fuzz’ occasionally feels like a box ticking exercise in pursuit of that dream, deliberately going down numerous alleys to increase its crossover appeal, when the results are this entertaining and well rounded, who really gives a fuzz?


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