The Cadillac Three may be best known for eardrum-rattling country-rock, but the Nashville natives can dial it back when necessary. During a recent performance at the Grand Ole Opry, the trio went for versatility over volume with their take on Tim McGraw’s hit ballad “Meanwhile Back at Mama’s.”
The song, off McGraw’s Sundown Heaven Town album, was actually co-written by the Cadillac Three’s guitar-slinging good ol’ boy Jaren Johnston, who recently topped the charts as a songwriter with Keith Urban’s “Raise ‘Em Up.” With multi-instrumentalist Kelby Ray on lap steel and drummer Neil Mason straddling a cajon, the Cadillac Three’s version of “Mama’s” evokes a back-porch jam, the kind of loose performance fueled by late nights and mason-jar shine. And Johnston, sporting a vintage Travis Tritt T-shirt, sings the lyrics with a yearning, syrupy drawl — one utterly authentic, not a put-on for radio spins.
Not that the band doesn’t have country radio in its sights. The Cadillac Three’s latest single, the excellent redneck love song “White Lightning,” is a hit waiting to happen — if only given the chance.
“We try to take the high road on that one and do what we do,” Johnston told Rolling Stone Country earlier this year about the opportunity for “White Lightning” to land on mainstream country radio. “If they play it, they play. If not, what are you going to do? You can’t force that hand. . . I think eventually country radio will come.”
The Cadillac Three are currently, and seemingly perpetually, on tour, as followers of Johnston’s road-weary (and food-porn heavy) Instagram account know firsthand. The band will play the New York State Fair tomorrow night, part of a five-day run through the northeast. In September, they’ll headline a sold-out homecoming show at Nashville’s Cannery Ballroom.