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No radio play for The Cadillac Three? No problem live

Paradise Rock Club, Boston, November 9, 2023

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

Four songs into their set, The Cadillac Three 's lead singer Jaren Johnston opined something to the effect that's why "you don't hear us on country radio right now."

Johnston presumably – it was a bit hard to tell – was referring to the band's decidedly lack of a radio friendly sound. So may it be, but there's something to be said for blazing your own trail, not going with au courant and coming out better for it on the other side.

The Cadillac Three has not changed all that much over the decade-plus that they've been around. They pack a wallop of a sound despite being a trio. Johnston handles all of the lead vocals. He's not some pretty singer, but that's just fine considering how dirty the music was most of the night. He is a good front man, for sure, with a sense of humor about him as well.

His guitar lines were more than supplemented by ace lap steel man Kelby Ray, who stepped it up by playing bass on a few numbers. Ray remained one great player, coaxing lots of steely sounds from his instrument of choice and making it often sound like a lead guitar.

The backbone of the group was drummer Neil Mason. He was sure handed, not a big frills guy, showing how fast he can play. It's not unusual to see guitarists close their eyes to get into the music. Drummers? Not so fast, but Mason is a different beast, standing up on a number of occasions after apparently being moved by the music and simply setting a great beat throughout the 90 minutes.

The sound itself was a dense, sonic assault. There may be country elements and a sensibility there, but this band rocked - most of the time.

While TC3 at times seemed to know only one gear, they were able to take it down a notch or two, making things more interesting. "Take Me to the Bottom," a slower, more spare number, was proof positive that, TC3 is more than capable.

And Johnston with electric in hand (the song would have done well acoustically as well) went solo with "Running Red Lights" to good effect. Obviously being alone, he toned down the sound, but not the feel for the music.

The Cadillac Three finished with perhaps their best-known songs, the anthemic "The South." (this has definitive country elements with the lines: "From daddy's Don Williams to Mama's Patsy Cline Oh, we're "Walkin' after midnight" singing "Tulsa Time", oh yeah"). It's a decade old now, but sounds about as fresh as ever. Like song, The Cadillac Three has aged well. They weren't going to get ready play in 2013. Nor are they in 2023. They're doing just fine on their own.

Michigan native Myron Elkins opened and his blues-based rock quartet made for a good start of the evening. Like the headliners, Elkins wasn't going for radio play either. He was a bit of a low-key performer (interestingly, he was on the left side of the side, instead of the middle where he would have been surrounded by his three mates), but made up for it with his playing and often passionate singing.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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