The QT

Friday 10 May 2024

Review: The Cadillac Three

Nashville trio The Cadillac Three still talk about their first trip to Tyneside in 2016. Eight years later and the outlaw country-styled Southern rockers were glad to be back
The Cadillac Three’s Jaren Johnston. Credit: Gordon Armstrong

Sporting a Pantera tee and looking like a latter-day Kurt Cobain, it seemed Jaren Johnston was on a mission to cement The Cadillac Three’s harder edge.

Sure enough, elements of garage rock, grunge and punk paced a furious set, only occasionally punctuated by mellower trad country.

And Nashville’s finest read the room a treat.

Dim lighting, an aggressive back line and everything turned up to 10 fitted a feisty crowd to a tee.

In truth, The Cadillac Three aren’t too different from the fiercely ambitious three-piece that first swapped Nashville for Newcastle in 2016.

More rock, less country? Maybe.

But what’s never changed is a dependence on substance over style and a reliance on authentic songwriting over lame posturing.

The Cadillac Three have never been trendy, cool or country’s next big thing.

Neil Mason ‘is a master of his craft’. Credit: Gordon Armstrong

They’ve always been prolific grafters with a knack for songs that speak to their people.

And perhaps that’s why they’ll always find a home in the North East of England — where heartfelt anthems Bury Me In My Boots and Peace, Love & Dixie resonate with working class punters proud of their roots.

For The South and I’m Southern swap The North and I’m Northern. You get the idea.

Think Sam Fender transplanted to Tennessee.

Sonically this show was an eye-opener.

Johnston got full value from his array of swoonsome guitars while Kelby Ray’s lap steel was luscious in its scope.

Neil Mason, meanwhile, is an underrated master of his craft: one part Willie Ackerman and one part Taylor Hawkins, his instinctive drummer’s touch covers all bases.

Young & Hungry, from latest long player The Years Go Fast, goes against Johnston’s off-the-cuff insistence that he writes his best songs for other folk.

Willy Cobb — one for the future. Credit: Gordon Armstrong

Sure he’s served up hits for Keith Urban, Steven Tyler, Tim McGraw and more but TC3’s frontman was at his authoritative best belting out one of the standout tunes of the night.

The meandering Tennessee Mojo and fuzz rocker White Lightning were typically wonderful examples of a band that’s always dealt in realism done right.

And there’s something to be said for finishing on a high and celebrating a job well done — no trite encore to see here.

Earlier fast-rising, dungarees-wearing, darling of Nashville’s alt rock scene, Willy Cobb, warmed up the fast-filling NX with a juiced-up set that dared to be different.

And main support Stephen Wilson maintained the momentum: beating the life out of his semi-acoustic and smashing any preconceptions in the process.

Yes, The Years Go Fast. But why slow down when country rock’s caught fire thanks to the sound of Cobb, Wilson and The Cadillac Three.

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