“This is where I was born and this is where I’ll die.” A simple and passionate statement from The Cadillac Three singer/guitarist Jaren Johnston that forms the basis of their anthem ‘The South’, which, in turn, defines much of what the fast-rising southern rockers are all about, an unashamed love letter to their home, wearing their hearts on their collective sleeves for all to see. Originally featured as a bonus track on later editions of the band’s debut album ‘Tennessee Mojo’, here it forms a staggering one-two with the track that follows, ‘This Accent’. Two tracks, very different in styles, but with the same message, what you see and hear is what you get, no bullshit, no pretence, as honest as the day is long. When Johnston sings on ‘This Accent’… ” You can take a lot of things from a man
Leave him beat, brokenhearted and bent
But you ain’t never gonna take this accent”,
it’s a royal ‘fuck you’, not only to the detractors, but also to pretenders that put on the southern drawl to appear more realistic. Likewise, when he sings “Where good ol’ boy like me still has a chance” on ‘The South’, it’s easy to hear the pride in his voice. If the hard drinking and harder living traits are the general perception of what being southern is, then the softer moments on the album reveal a vulnerability to the band. ’White Lightning’, written by Johnston for his wife, is the track that keeps drawing the listener back in. It creeps into the subconscious, and has a chorus that will have you humming for weeks. Maybe it’s the way it builds, maybe it’s the Steve McQueen and Dukes Of Hazzard name checks, or maybe it’s just the fact that Johnston has written a great song that everyone can identify with. ’Runnin’ Red Lights’ is another spine-tingling moment where the loneliness of being on the road hits home. Co-written by Johnston and drummer Neil Mason, it’s simple in execution, but highly effective. Mason also hits a homerun with ‘Graffiti’, a slow burning gem of a song that resonates on many different levels.
The Cadillac Three are famed for their rock-hard live shows, fuelled by Johnston’s powerful guitar sound and Mason’s thunderous drum work, but it’s the lapsteel work from Kelby Ray where the band stand out. All of these components click into place on the album’s heavier moments, in particular, on the title track, an ode to how we all want to go out… ”Bury me in my boots..and don’t forget the whiskey”… the riffs have a gritty, almost AC/DC feel to them, whilst the slide work on the appropriately named ‘Slide’ glistens with energy, and enhances Johnston’s reputation as a guitarist with great feeling and gusto.