Live Review: The Cadillac Three – Manchester

Live Review: The Cadillac Three - Manchester

Live Review: The Cadillac Three - Academy, Manchester
11th May 2023
Support: Stephen Wilson, Jnr and Willy Cobb
Words: Dan Barnes
Photos: Bill Mawdsley

It might be through expose to Clint Eastwood westerns at a formative age, or having heard Glenn Campbell and the like, before ever listening to Sabbath or Zeppelin, but there’s just something about that Southern Rock sound that strikes a chord with me. I’ve waxed lyrically in reviews of Kris Barras and Kira Mac, still rave about a Lynryd Skynyrd gig I saw in 2003, and watched all six series of Nashville when they first came out. I even went through a phase of using the word: “Y’all”, but that thankfully didn’t last too long.

It's a packed programme tonight with a tight running order and first up is Willy Cobb, straight outta Nashville, Tennessee – the place, not the abovementioned TV show – and ready to get this party started. Willy wastes none of short time with us, accompanied by two associates, delivering some driving rhythms, and showing a range of styles within the Country-Rock genre. FU is the sort of tune you might have heard at a High School dance in the Fifties, Burnin’ is a heart-felt, but never sugary, ballad that can get a bit dirty when it needs to and New Chapters has something of an Alt-Rock feel to its Country vibes. Clothed in dungarees, Willy tells the story of being fined £150 for dropping a cigarette butt on his last visit to Manchester and closes his set with Cigarette Smells, a song ubiquitous across all digital platforms and one that carries with it a hearty Rock N’ Roll swing.

Photo Credit: Bill Mawdsley

It’s a quick turnaround for Stephen Wilson, Jnr, who arrives with an electric-acoustic guitar and receives a massive reaction as soon as he steps foot onto the stage. Billy is dedicated to all the Hillbillies in the crowd – fewer than you think, considering this is Manchester, although the Pennines are but a stone’s throw to the east – Cuckoo is for to all the working English persons in the audience and features a real traditional vibe – think Deliverance, just not that bit.

Stephen breaks all our hearts with his introduction to Father’s Son, from his latest album, Son of Dad, in which he tells the tale of losing his own father, in a song as wide reaching as the plains of America’s heartland. He pours out his soul for Manchester tonight and I must have got something in my eye as a tear rolls down my check. The addition of a slide-guitar supplements the sound, adding to the timeless echo of mesas and scrub.

Photo Credit: Bill Mawdsley

Just to lift the spirits, Stephen pops open a cover of Nirvana’s Something in the Way before going back to the Bon Aqua EP for a Year to be Young 1994 and Holler from the Holler. Both are tales of dead-end hometowns where the option – in Year to be Young 1994’s case is roller skating or drugs – is get away or die inside. His delivery invokes Springsteen’s drawl on his acoustic albums, Nebraska, Devil and Dust, and The Ghost of Tom Joad, which is why it’s a perfect combination of style and substance. Stephen mentioned he’d be back in the autumn – he said the fall, but I’m sure he meant the autumn.

Photo Credit: Bill Mawdsley

I saw on a T-shirt the slogan “Too Country for Rock – Too Rock for Country” and that just about sums up The Cadillac Three‘s approach. No airs, no graces; just turn up and Rock out. I’m Southern starts the performance with a slow and steady pace. Oldies Slide, Peace Love and Dixie and Tennessee Mojo have all set the scene with their infectious rhythms and foot-tapping grooves before the first of tonight’s new material is aired.

Last year’s The Years Go Fast album fit snuggly into C3’s catalogue and Double Wide Grave is all about a cranking riff and tough guitar sound. The Worst’s bouncing bassline follows and then Hillbilly, which sees Willy Cobb getting a mention, but these two newbies are separated by the stone-cold classic that is Bury Me in My Boots. An arena-sized roar greets this old favourite, as one does with Hard Out Here for a Country Boy.

Photo Credit: Bill Mawdsley

There’s a parade of Southern Rock staples rolled out by the band: both Blues El Camino and The Jam have a ZZ Top feel to them particularly in the drums, Down to the River is filled with pain and loss, and Take me to the Bottom is another heart-rending Country ballad.

After the singalong Runnin’ Red Lights, frontman Jaren Johnson announces an unusual addition to the set, Love Like War, which he says the band usually omit due to the morose nature of the song. Centring on a adversarial relationship, it is heavy going, but Hank and Jesus gives us back a more traditional Country sound. American Slang – not a Gaslight Anthem cover – and White Lightning follow, leaving only The South to close out the show.

Photo Credit: Bill Mawdsley

The Cadillac Three didn’t rely on any gimmicks in their performance, just three musicians and a simple, yet effective light show. Even so, the evening was a musical treat as far as I was concerned, and I pondered the merits of getting myself a truck and growing a mullet. In retrospect I probably won’t, but I did pop on some Skynyrd for the drive home and pondered how a Confederate Flag would go down in my neighbourhood. Y’all take care, now.

Photo Credit: Bill Mawdsley

Photo credits: Bill Mawdsley

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