Review: The Cadillac Three’s ‘Country Fuzz’ Busts Free From Labels
The Cadillac Three are growing up, but not growing old. Country music's loudest power trio buck and thrash between guitar licks and drum hits on Country Fuzz. They thrive in the chaos.
The band's new studio album is on-brand, to say the least. The anthemic "Hard Out Here for a Country Boy" and the groovier, but equally addictive "Jack Daniels Heart" represent a batch of new songs certain to level up their 2020 tour, but it's not just what they recorded that makes the rockers unique. It's how the captured the spirit of their live show.
How many bands look to etch their live sound onto a record, and how many actually do it? It's a one-sided ratio, with Jaren Johnston and company among the few finding themselves on the right side of the wager.
At times — and this may be controversial for longtime fans of Johnston, Neil Mason and Kelby Ray — Country Fuzz is something the Cadillac Three's previous three albums on Big Machine Records were not: radio friendly. "Back Home" is a banjo-fed country rocker with emphasis on the "country." A Hank Williams Jr. mention and memories of growing up Southern string together each singalong chorus. Elsewhere, "Dirt Road Nights" offers some heat, and "Long After Last Call" is as tender as you'll hear this group get on their own records.
Beyond that, who here can't imagine commuters shouting "It's hard out here for a country boy!" up and down the interstate in the same way we screamed how "Long neck, ice cold beer never broke my heart" in 2019?
There's a certain girth to many of the 16 new songs that those who only recognize "The South" will appreciate, but what separates Country Fuzz is topography. One minute they're high on a rock, the next they're deep in a holler with lyrics that, on paper, are as sweet as anything Randy Travis ever sang. "Bar Round Here" is the album opener you'd expect, but "The Jam" (co-written by Florida Georgia Line's Brian Kelley) is what Donna Summer would sound like if she did heavy metal.
This song and "Labels" stand out as signature tracks for very different reasons.
While both songs preach a certain do-as-you-please mantra, the Mason-led co-write adds lyrical depth. "Labels" pushes past the one-dimensional stereotypes we assign to people we don't understand. "Loner," "Stoner," Drunk" and "Prom Queen" are a few "types" that get treated with some empathy and humility during the mid-tempo jam. The song is just a break from regularly scheduled programming, and they get back at it with "Raise Hell" immediately afterward, but it's these moments that people miss after they've assigned their own labels to the Cadillac Three.
Yep, they're rockers, but Country Fuzz proves that's just the start of it.
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