‘Run,’ don’t walk, to pick up the new album by the Black Cadillacs
By Steve Wildsmith (email@example.com)
The odometer’s topped 200,000 miles, but the Black Cadillacs are still riding strong.
If anything, the East Tennessee rock band is running better than ever. This weekend, the guys will celebrate the release of “Run,” a CD recorded by acclaimed studio wizard Scott Minor of Sparklehorse, and other bands that may elect to pull up to the white line and challenge the Cadillacs to race should be forewarned: This record is a tank of nitrous oxide bolted to a well-oiled machine.
“I think we’re absolutely a more seasoned band, and this material is better than ‘All Them Witches’ (the band’s 2010 album), which we recorded when we’d been a band for all of six months,” singer Will Horton told The Daily Times recently. “Last summer, we sort of cut our teeth on tour and started to figure things out. It was a complete learning experience, managing ourselves and going into shows completely blind, not knowing what to expect, but I think it helped make this a band effort.”
Certainly the collective experiences of the members have made them a more solid unit. The Cadillacs began in West Tennessee with Horton’s cousin, Matthew Hyrka. As a teen, Hyrka started the group with a friend, eventually settling on the Cadillacs name. Slowly, Horton was indoctrinated into the group, first during trips to Memphis during summer and winter breaks and eventually as the full-time lead vocalist when Hyrka and bassist Philip Anderson moved to Knoxville to attend the University of Tennessee.
Guitarist John Phillips was there as Hyrka, Anderson and Horton got the band off the ground. Horton was still attending Catholic High School when he’d visit Hyrka and Anderson in their UT dorm; Phillips lived down the hall and got to know them all.
“Will would come up and hang out and play my guitars,” Phillips said. “I knew that they had a maturity about what they wanted to accomplish that I hadn’t seen at that age. They were doing these covers by Bowie and the Rolling Stones and the MC 5 that were just really cool.”
Phillips was invited into the fold, and the guys eventually moved into a house in the Fort Sanders neighborhood. Before they were playing gigs at venues around Knoxville, they were holding parties in the Fort that helped shore up a grassroots fanbase. They were also dabbling in songwriting, and Phillips knew the band had potential to be more than just a college side project when he heard an early version of “Damaged Girl,” one of the tracks off of “All Them Witches.”
“I thought that if they could write that at 16, there was something here,” Phillips said. “We just kept trying to do something a little bit bigger.”
Adam Bonomo came on board in the summer of 2009, and the band began churning out original songs; the local scene began to take notice, and the Cadillacs started booking shows at places like World Grotto and Barley’s. A built-in group of followers who fell for the group at those house parties showed up, and suddenly the Cadillacs seemed to be on everybody’s radar.
“We packed those house parties, and everybody had a blast, so when we’d play at places around town, they’d come out,” Phillips said. “And once you get that kind of crowd reaction to songs you’ve written, it’s addicting.”
In 2010, the Cadillacs released “All Them Witches,” a gritty blues-rock record reminiscent of Rolling Stones circa the “Sticky Fingers” era; a CD release show at Barley’s brought out more than 500 fans. And they’ve slowly built up respectable followings in regional cities like Atlanta and Nashville. And the whole time, they’ve been planning for the follow-up to “Witches.”
“Everybody liked that record, but we felt pretty quickly we could do better,” Phillips said. “As soon as it was out, we had this hunger to do something else, so the writing didn’t slow down.”
In December, they guys convened with at Wild Chorus Studios with Minor and went to work on “Run.” Although it’s only two years removed from “Witches,” it sounds as if the band has jammed a couple of decades worth of living into that time. Horton moans and howls like a voodoo priest with a pocketful of bones collected from the graves old blues men; the other guys, bolstered by local singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Kevin Hyfantis, build this monstrous wall of sound that draws on The Black Keys, My Morning Jacket and The White Stripes in equal measure.
It’s a more-than-worthy successor to “Witches,” Horton believes. But it’s also no reason for the band to sit back and relax.
“We’re already writing for our next album,” he said. “We can’t wait to get on the road, because that’s our natural habitat. We’re all in this together, and I can’t imagine any of the six of us going to do something else.”