Before long, Clint Sturgeon signed on as bass player and guitarist Mike Jump came aboard, valued by Simpson not only for his picking talents but for his "beautiful clear tenor voice" as well. Still, Simpson realized, the band hadn't quite gelled completely.
"Finally, we were sitting around practicing, the first practice I was singing in. I was gonna play fiddle and mandolin, but I just didn't feel like I could do one satisfactorily without hurting the other. So I asked if anybody in the band knew of another guy that could sing another tenor part and also was a good fiddle player, and Matt had been kickin' around with this guy Ross Holmes in East Texas for the past few months, and so we gave Ross a call. Ross showed up at the next practice, and from there, Cadillac Sky was formed."
As the band progressed and became more of a serious venture, their growing travel schedule caused Sturgeon to drop out. After a couple of new bass players didn't work out as hoped, they found their man in Andy Moritz, an Ohio native transplanted to Houston.
"Andy joined the band and it finally made us feel like a unit again, we kind of stumbled around for a while once we lost our first bass player because he didn't want to travel as much and be as serious as we were trying to get. And we didn't start really trying to be that serious about it until probably about the first of 2005 or something like that."
Simpson and Moritz are both in their early thirties, while Holmes and Menefee are both a decade younger. As for Jump's age, Simpson realizes with a start, "I don't even know...I have no idea," and adds with a laugh that whatever it is, all five of them mesh well personally as well as musically.
And, befitting their youth and standing as Texas musicians, they're having a lot of fun with it all. Take the band's name, for instance.
"There's no real story. We keep making up stories. Lately I think the last story that we gave was that we were named by an Indian chief of the Windstar tribe in Oklahoma as Cadillac Sky. It had meaning when I was like, 12 years old, but I'd had the band name a long time and we were trying to come up with something (else), but everybody just kind of dug on it, so we just went with it."
Throughout the conversation Simpson uses terms like "quirky," "progressive" and "left-of-center" to describe the music, and it comes through on "Blind Man Walking." The opening track, for example is "Born Lonesome," which Simpson co-wrote with Bob Regan.
"I think (Bob) came up with the first line of the chorus, 'I came out cryin', wailin' like an old freight train,' and I knew we were on to something there. He left me a message on my voice mail after we wrote it and just said something along the lines of 'To play good bluegrass, it takes more than just being lonesome or feeling lonesome, it's completely insufficient unless you're born lonesome.' So, we thought that's maybe the motto for the bluegrass anatomy or biology, to be born lonesome."
A bit more mellow and introspective is Simpson's "Motel Morning."
"I wrote that one by myself, and I think it's something every traveling musician's had to face, those days where sometimes they run together and you don't exactly know where you're at or what day it is of the week, and you're just kind of living off the adrenaline of last night's show and looking forward to the next night's show, and at some point gettin' home to your family that you love. The music kind of keeps you going, and the people you're out there with do too, and that's what the song talks about. The whole song came pretty quick to me, 'cause it's something that's a personal thing, (and it's) easy to write songs that are right there, close to your heart."
The album was actually in the can in mid-2005, but the band held off releasing it until the right opportunity came along, and Simpson calls it "a miracle" that when opportunity knocked, his name was Ricky Skaggs.
"Ricky heard the record and called us and told us that he was interested in sig
ning the band and wanted to buy the project from us. He heard some kind of sound in us, he told me that he heard we had the 'Sound on the Wind', or something like that. I thought that was pretty cool, and he was pretty excited when he called me. And obviously, we knew that somebody of that stature in the acoustic music world was somebody that we would definitely be interested in working with, so it was kind of a no-brainer for us."
Returning to a theme, Simpson and Cadillac Sky are searching - and finding - an audience that, like them, craves something new and different, yet still reveres and respects the tradition.
"I think there are a lot of groups, not just us, who are trying to do acoustic music from a fresh perspective...what (audiences) saw on 'Hee Haw' may or may not be - probably isn't - what a lot of bluegrass is about today, and acoustic music in particular."