Bar Round Here The Jam Hard Out Here For a Country Boy (feat. Chris Janson & Travis Tritt) Slow Rollin’ All the Makins of a Saturday Night Crackin Cold Ones With the Boys Labels Raise Hell Back Home Dirt Road Nights Blue El Camino Jack Daniels Heart Why Ya Gotta Go Out Like That Heat Whiskey and Smoke Long After Last Call
The way we’ve done really all of these records is just kind of going, The three of us can figure it out, says Neil Mason, drummer of the country-rock power trio The Cadillac Three. He and his longtime bandmates, singer-guitarist Jaren Johnston and slide guitarist Kelby Ray, who supplies the groups rumbling low end in place of a standard bassist, applied that same self-sufficient approach to their fourth LP, COUNTRY FUZZ. They co-wrote and produced 15 of the 16 tracks and handled all the playing, except a lone banjo part. After a couple years of playing the last record, all you’re really thinking about is What else could we put in the set? And how’s it going to feel? And how’s it going to help move the live show?’ Mason says. It’s not necessarily what we’re thinking about when writing the lyrics to the songs, but musically were definitely just trying to think about groove and tempo. The trio has a back catalog full of heavy, hooky riffs and boozy blue-collar romps, but the hard-shuffling boogies and the funky interplay between four-on-the-floor drum beats and syncopated guitar, thats all new. We knew that we wanted to call this record COUNTRY FUZZ, says Mason. So we wanted to kind of encapsulate everything that we’d done before and everything that we could imagine possibly doing in the future. Here he gives the lowdown on each of the album’s songs.
Bar Round Here
Lori [McKenna] lives right outside of Boston, so anytime we’re playing in the Boston area, we let her know and we try and get her to come out that day and just come hop on the bus and write a couple songs with us. That day, we wrote a serious song right when she got there in the morning, and then we took a lunch break. In the afternoon we wrote Bar Round Here. I’m pretty sure she was just laughing her way through it, because it’s not really the kind of song that she would normally be a part of. All the more reason that I really wanted to record it and make sure that it was awesome, just because it was so just kind of left-footed-feeling for it being a Lori song. Bar Round Here reminds me of an old Hank Williams Jr. song or something like thatit’s got just a ton of funny lyrics in it. It feels like basically us on day five of being on the road and being like, Well, it’s like hair of the dog. Let’s get out there. We need to keep the energy going. So it just seemed like it was going to be a really fun thing to start the record off with, kind of something we’d never done before but still that drinking, partying thing that we’re kind of known for.
I think it’s a lot bouncier bassline than happens in most of our songs, and it did take a second to just kind of figure out, Can this be a TC3 song or not? I just remember getting in there in the studio and Kelby had to figure out how to do that on the bass and still have some slide in there. He’s kind of the master at combining these two instruments and making them feel like it’s just this one part, even though there’s multiple things going on. It’s not that swampy Southern thing that we’ve kind of gotten down pretty good. It’s a whole new thing.
Hard Out Here for a Country Boy
Honestly, I’d like to say there was some really smart, concocted plan there, but really what happened was we were on the road with Travis [Tritt] and he would come on the bus after shows. We’d have some drinks and he’d bring his guitar. He’d be singing old Waylon Jennings songs. Then at some point in the night he’d be like, Let me hear y’all’s s**t. We’d play him songs from the new record, and that was the one that he kind of just gravitated towards over maybe a month of coming on the bus. So one of those nights, Jaren said, Hey, would you want to sing on this thing? It just happened to be that [Chris] Janson called Jaren and they were just talking for a second. Janson said, Well, I want to sing on this song. Send me the song, I want to hear it. He loved it and literally was just like, Send me the track. I’ll go over to my buddy’s studio. I’ll cut a vocal, and I’ll throw a harmonica on there today. And he did, so we actually got both of them [on the song] in the same 24 hours, but in different states. But to me, the features fit together really great, because I think of Janson as kind of like Hank Jr. and kind of like Travis Tritt of this day and age. He’s kind of that wild man character. So I thought that the mix between the three of us was actually perfect.
I think of ZZ Top, specifically that kind of Billy Gibbons-like hey, low voice, the growl thing that he does. Jaren’s voice doesn’t go that low, but he does kind of go for that at a couple of little spots. That’s kind of an ode to Billy.
All the Makins of a Saturday Night
That one’s got a ton of syncopation in it, and its really super fun to play on the drums. We wrote that song on the back of the bus on the Travis Tritt tour, and it wrote itself in, like, 45 minutes. To me, it’s kind of quintessential us in the sense that we’re pretty much together every single Saturday night of our lives, and we’re usually playing a show. And we’re usually drinking some beer, and oftentimes we’ll be hanging out with our friends. Our friends, a lot of them happen to be musicians because that’s who we spend all our time with. So it’s just kind of an ode to just the good times that we like to have out wherever we are and with our buddies. They say write what you know.
Crackin Cold Ones With the Boys
When we were in the middle of the record, we had a day where Jaren and Kelby couldn’t get to the studio until like 3:00 in the afternoon, but we had the whole day blocked. So I went in in the morning. Then I just recorded a bunch of different grooves, things that I thought that we hadn’t done before that could be cool. Crackin’ Cold Ones was one other thing that came out of that little day of experimenting. So I recorded that thing, and it was kind of ripping off the Gary Glitter song they play at basketball games.
That’s one I wrote with my buddy Corey Crowder and another writer in town named Luke Dick. One of my favorite things with those guys is just to kind of try and push the boundaries and just kind of see how far we can take an idea and not be afraid to stay within the more traditional country themes. So I’ve always been drawn to those songs that talk about the person that maybe feels like they don’t fit in or talk about the person that somehow feels like they’re different than everybody else. I was really proud of particularly the second verse of that song, just because it felt like it was covering some ground that hadn’t been covered a whole lot on a country record.
The vocal on that is kind of interesting to me. We’ve never done the trick that’s on there, and it’s going to make it really hard to play live. There’s a talking vocal, then there’s a sung vocal, then there’s this weird kind of falsetto harmony vocal going on all at the same time, and it makes this really unique blend. Jaren wrote that song by himself.
We spent two years kind of writing this record and auditioning a lot of songs that ultimately did make the record and a number that didn’t make the record. We were looking for that anthemic thing. What I liked about the song lyrics was, because somebody else wrote it, it wasn’t exactly how Jaren or I would say it, but everything that was in there was all stuff that we absolutely related to. Then we had to take it in the studio and make sure musically that we could pull it off and feel comfortable playing it, because the chord changes are a little bit more traditional Southern rock then what we typically do.
Dirt Road Nights
Even though maybe the song feels a little bit more in the middle of things that are out there in the country world, for us it was actually unique and something that we hadn’t really tried on before.
Blue El Camino
It does have that disco influence on the chorus for sure, but it rocks more. It kind of reminds me of the band Cake, just because it’s got that kind of a ratty single-note guitar thing. It’s really taken on a life of its own on the road. The crazy, short jam on the end of that song really started to turn into a whole other world live.
Jack Daniels Heart
My buddy Josh Dunne and I wrote that song. I think we had written that day, and we had a TC3 session, like, two days later. He said, Whoever broke Jack Daniels heart, and I just started imagining this 1800s girl that was in some big dress and walking out of a saloon or something, having broken his heart. Then we just kind of like started trying to make up all these stories about what that would be and relate it back to the singer having his heart broken too. There’s a bunch of lines in that song that just make me laugh. It’s got that weird kind of half bar at the end of the hook where it turns around on the chorus that I really like a lot. Then it also gives us the excuse again at the end to go into a big old bluegrass jam, which we’ve never done before. So there’s a lot of elements in that song that are new to us, and I guess I just like from a lyrical perspective that it shows that we’re not taking ourselves too seriously.
Why Ya Gotta Go Out Like That
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers have been a massive influence on me from a songwriting perspective and just from a here’s a band that stayed together their entire career perspective. I think it’s one of the reasons that we’ve always stuck together since high school. Why Ya Gotta Go Out Like That is one of my favorite songs on the record because I know the story. It’s a story that I’ve witnessed Jaren and his now-wife live. It’s a story that I know me and my now-wife have lived. It’s a story that Kelby and his wife have lived, where it’s just like you have a couple too many and you get in some dumb fight. You don’t really know why the hell it happened, but that happened, and you’re sitting there going at the end of the night like, Why couldn’t we have just had a good time?
We don’t do a whole lot of the thing where the chorus really opens up like that. Jaren really gets to showcase his vocal on that song in a really cool wayhe’s really kind of singing his ass off. He gets into this raspy thing that I know he can do, but it doesn’t always happen in as a melodic way as it does on the song. Then it’s also got one of our favorite tricks, which is just do the breakdown bridge instead of a vocal bridge. By the end of it, we’re all hitting our instruments as hard as we possibly can before we break it back down.
Whiskey and Smoke
That song was born out of sound checks on the road. We had two or three of the parts that ended up in that song: the verse part that’s more of the country boogie thing and the super big half-time riff that became the chorus and the part that became the bridge. Jaren took all those parts to the back of the bus and pieced them together. Lyrically, it was just one of those where I’m pretty sure somebody said, Whiskey and smoke, and we all looked at each other and were like, How have we not written that?
Long After Last Call
I’ve always loved that song. That’s one that Jaren wrote by himself, and there was always this recording of it where it’s just him and a guitar and he was singing it. It’s an older one that’s been sitting around, and we went back and forth on whether it fit for this record or not. But it felt like we’ve got the heavy, half-time, riffy stuff, and we’ve got the drinking songs, we’ve got this new kind of funkier side, so it was like, Well, what’s another side that isn’t on this record?