We have a proper double-take moment arriving outside Dingwalls, walking past a couple of pre-gig punters and realising that one of them is Chrissie Hynde. It’s Tuesday night, at a modestly sized Camden den, where an un-hyped, ‘non-mainstream’ Nashville trio are about to play. One does not expect to see Chrissie Hynde here. Evidently tonight’s headliners made an impression when she and The Pretenders took them on tour. And like the rest of the crowd gathered (the venue is visibly very sold-out, with bobbing heads spilling out to the bar and beyond), she’s clearly up for 90 minutes of hard, countrified rock’n’roll.
“Thiiis is wheerrrree ayeee was born and thiiiis is where I’ll diiiie!” drawls frontman Jaren Johnston, before the three smiling friends dive into a Saturday night-starting Party Like You. Johnston once told us, “Everybody’s proud of where they’re from, but people from the South are very very proud!” He’s not wrong. The Cadillac Three wear their roots on their sleeves, faces, leather jackets, trucker caps; any surface you care to mention, it’s ALL about the South. And sex, and Jack Daniels. But mostly the South. The South, the swaggering, sexy Tennessee Mojo, I’m Southern for godssake… Tune after happy-making ‘choon, all instantly that bit more striking with the rootsy charisma of Kelby Ray’s lap steel.
The Cadillac Three have long praised Metallica alongside the country heroes they grew up with. But it takes this loud, low-ceilinged live setting to affirm how heavy they really are, amid the Stetson-swinging vibes. Tunes like I’m Rockin’ become considerably heavier, dirtier beasts than their recorded counterparts. Similarly Get Your Buzz On – a perky, chipper tune on record – is slower and sleazier tonight. Even the sunny Back It Up gets beefed up, to the delight of a crowd bellowing back every word.
Popular slowie White Lightning is dedicated to Ms Hynde, and followed by new number Hot Damn (“You put the haht in haht dayum!”…oh come on, TRY not to laugh a little bit at that). “This is our first headline tour of the UK and we’ve sold the whole sonofabitch out!” Johnston beams. It’s not difficult to see why. They might be chock-full of booze 99.9% of the time, but onstage there’s no real arsing around. Or at least not to the detriment of the music – Johnston ends up joining Neil Mason for a spot of drumming, creating a happy mass of tattoos, hair and hats. A joyful precursor to closer Days Of Gold.
Clearly they can now bat their eyelids and conquer a space this size. Lets see where they head next…