@Newcastle University, January 29 2016
Three is the magic number where laid-back Tennessee gentlemen Jaren Johnston, Kelby Ray and Neil Mason are concerned.
The fast-rising Nashville trio head out with country music royalty Florida Georgia Line later this year on their biggest US tour to date and surely their days playing the UK’s club circuit are numbered.
The Cadillac Three boast the songs, the swagger and the Southern Rock cool to dominate far bigger stages in front of crowds five times this size. But watching Johnston and co. ply their trade is such a cosy venue proved a real treat for as long it lasts.
A band that includes keenly parochial songs called The South and I’m Southern in their set might have anticipated a rough ride in the heart of the Toon but any fears were unfounded. Frequent mentions of Newcastle warmed Geordie hearts and there was an obvious affinity between band and public.
More like a bar room jam session than a full-blown gig, The Cadillac Three drew on instinct as much as experience to create a melting pot of Friday night party music.
Friends since childhood, Johnston, Ray and Mason look like family. Those knowing glances, cheeky smiles and intuitive mid-set moves are borne out of years working, playing and praying together: praying that someone, somewhere will appreciate the finer points of their rootsy groove.
Latest singles White Lightning and Graffiti – the latter released on the day of this show – prove The Cadillac Three have an uncanny knack for creating traditional country with an edgy modernity. Johnston dug Nirvana and Metallica before he discovered Skynyrd and there’s often a heavy rock edge to his band’s cooler cuts.
It’s a healthy fusion sure to fire the amiable threesome far beyond Newcastle University Students Union’s cramped and limiting basement venue. Perhaps this summer’s Ramblin’ Man Fair will carry The Cadillac Three into the Southern Rock stratosphere where the UK is concerned. Here’s hoping.
Whether Whiskey Myers can do the same remains to be seen. The support act’s first Newcastle show delivered thrilling glimpses of their huge potential but the bizarre decision to toss The White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army into their set somewhat killed the mood.
A band with so many standout tunes of their own – Early Morning Shakes (the title track from their latest album) an obvious example – should steer clear of covers and focus on covering themselves in self-penned glory.