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The Cadillac Three, Sellers do it their own way

Paradise Rock Club, Boston, February 17, 2017

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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The way The Cadillac Three lead singer Jaren Johnston told it, the band could have had their choice of opening tours this year for the likes of Kenny Chesney, Dierks Bentley and Jake Owen. No go though because the long-haired singer fronting the rough-and-most-definitely ready trio said the band wanted to do it their own way.

Based on this most muscular, sturdy and convincing 80-minute performance before yet another enthusiastic crowd in Beantown, Johnston and band had plenty of reasons to stick to their touring guns.

Fact is that The Cadillac Three is probably best experienced over a longer duration that demonstrated time and again that this band has the chops. It did not take much to get the band (not to mention the crowd) going with the first two songs from the latest "Bury Me in My Boots" and "Slide" starting off the set.

Johnston offered lots of good guitar licks, aided and abetted often by Kelby Ray, whose pedal steel often comes mighty close to a lead guitar sound. Drummer Neil Mason provided the backbone with his beats as well. They were not afraid to play out and let the music roar and rip.

This wasn't a case of sonic assault, but there was a purpose to the playing, a sound that more closely could be labeled southern rock than country.

In fact, a few of the songs - the closing anthemic "The South," Peace Love & Dixie" among them - have that southern bent to the lyrics as well.

Despite the firepower, somehow Johnston's vocals could be heard through the din. He was not your pretty boy front man either, joking at one point that he wasn't as good looking as some of the hit makers out there. But he more than made up for that with his sheer willpower and joy.

Interestingly, there was a big difference between TC3's recorded material and what has been written and converted into hits for others by Johnston. They did snippets of "Sunshine & Whiskey," (a song that would fit TC3 and Johnston said he rued not keeping the song that Frankie Ballard turned into a hit), "American Country Love Song" (Owen), but turned in a full version of Keith Urban's hit with "Raise 'Em Up," that sounded more out of their own canon.

The Cadillac Three is one of those bands that have not garnered any hits. In fact, none of their singles has even reached the top 30. No problem, though, because this group was made to tour. And doing it their way, on their way, seemed to work out just fine.

Aubrie Sellers was an excellent fit in her opening set. Sellers may be rooted in country, but she calls her brand "garage country," an appropriate moniker. While she played one straight-ahead country song during her 40 minutes, Sellers also mined rock, British rock (a cover of The Kinks' "All Day and All of the Night") and country rock la Gram Parsons with "Luxury Liner," best known for being covered by Emmylou Harris.

Sellers concentrated on her debut, released independently a year ago and re-released by Warner in August. Sellers benefitted from a most pleasing voice (think of Lee Ann Womack, but with a bunch of tougher sounding songs. Note: Womack is her mom), and her own material stands up well, including songs with social commentary ("Magazines").

Sellers was a most excellent table setter for The Cadillac Three in what was a heavier sounding brand of country. These two acts are calling their shots. Both they - and we - are the beneficiaries.