Among the year’s most exciting albums, the Cadillac Three’s sophomore release Bury Me in My Boots plays out like a dedication to anyone who has ever loved them, their brand of Southern rock and that damn long hair.
The 14-song album features singles “Drunk Like You,” “Party Like You,” “White Lightning” and “The South,” the latter of which features Florida Georgia Line, Dierks Bentley and Eli Young Band’s Mike Eli.
But Jaren Johnston, Neil Mason and Kelby Ray Caldwell agree, “Graffiti” anchors the entire collection. Mason co-wrote the song with hit-makers Corey Crowder and Luke Dick, and Johnston loved it from the moment he heard it.
“I think it shows kind of our old, the Cadillac Three, straight balls-to-the-wall bad ass stuff,” Johnston said in a radio interview. “But then it shows the underbelly a little bit, and it also shows growth in a way where you see sides of a bar band, you see sides of a great songwriting band, you see sides of an arena band. I think it shows where we’ve been and where we’re going.”
As guys who have dedicated most of their lives to taking over the world with their music, the second verse leading into the chorus is among the album’s most authentic material. Johnston sings, “Just a little something to remember us by/Like our very own Hollywood sign/Our story’s spread around, word of mouth, town to town/Even now still talkin’ bout.”
Those who are new to the Cadillac Three should know they are pretty much Music Row’s ultimate favorite band. Their sound has ruled the country radio airwaves for the better part of the last decade.
Johnston is an in-demand hit man who has written just over a six-pack of No. 1s, including the Grammy-nominated hits “Raise ‘Em Up” and “Meanwhile Back at Mama’s.” He’s behind Jake Owen’s “Beachin’,” Keith Urban’s “You Gonna Fly,” Tim McGraw’s “Southern Girl,” Billy Currington’s “Don’t It” and Frankie Ballard’s “Sunshine and Whiskey.”
He and Mason co-wrote Ballard’s “It All Started With a Beer,” and the title single from Owen’s 2013 album Days of Gold was a song lifted from the band’s self-titled debut.
Johnston co-penned Owen’s current hit “American Country Love Song” and Ballard’s latest single “Cigarette,” the latter of which he co-wrote with Kip Moore and Chris Stapleton.
Additionally, Mason is a hit-maker behind Rascal Flatts’ “Payback” and “(This Ain’t No) Drunk Dial” for A Thousand Horses, plus songs on Miranda Lambert’s Platinum and Jon Pardi’s California Sunrise.
Caldwell co-wrote two songs on both Bury Me in My Boots and their self-titled debut. But live, he runs his pedal steel rig through Orange bass and guitar amps, taking on the roles of both soloist and bassist. And his tones that blare out of the system is the stuff of southern rock sorcery.
But what makes the Cadillac Three’s sound so compelling is their ability to take the spirit of the Nashville underground and turn it into damn fine records. They are born and bred monster Nashville musicians who were raised to see the world through stage lights. And they love Hank Williams just as much as they love Nirvana.
As highly creative people, deciding which songs to keep and which to give away comes easy to the band because they know their audience.
“It’s a conversation we’ve had at No. 1 parties,” Johnston said in a radio interview, ‘‘Why didn’t you keep this for Cadillac?’ I’m like it’s because he says, ‘sunshine and whiskey,’ in the chorus.’ It’s a little too what everybody else is doing, which is ironic. But we’re trying to do something different I guess.”
By the way, they are absolutely huge overseas. They’ve staged sold-out tours in Ireland and the U.K. And in November, they’re going back to Europe with blues rock band Tyler Bryant and the Shakedown for gigs in England, Ireland, the Netherlands, Germany and Spain.
Bury Me in My Boots lands Aug. 5.