The tricky part about being a bluegrass band these days is finding something new to do with it. Bluegrass is a music largely bound by its own rules: instrumentation, structures, harmonies, tempos and even song subjects rarely stray far from parameters established decades ago, and even the newgrass groups that go out of their way to bend those rules are ultimately bound by them.
So the best one can hope for when encountering a newcomer is, first, that they can play like masters, and, second, that they have songs that haven't been played into the ground by the hundreds of bluegrass bands that preceded them.
Cadillac Sky wins on both points and then jumps one step further by determinedly inching beyond the genre's established edges. There are few surprises here in the string setup: you get your basic banjo, fiddle, mandolin, guitar and bass. And you get a clearasabell lead vocalist met by perfectly complementary harmony voices (some sound like they've been lifted straight from the purepop likes of the Beatles or CSNY).
But this quintet is so facile in their picking and so inventive in their instrumental arrangements and vocal interactions that their approach to bluegrass can't help but be refreshingly original throughout. Occasionally the band injects a sound that throws a curve (whoever heard of a didgeridoo on a bluegrass recording?) but mostly Cadillac Sky begins with the material of vocalist/mandolinist Bryant Simpson written solo or in collaboration with others and then deconstructs it from the inside out until they've found a thoroughly unexpected way of presenting those songs.
Cadillac Sky never give the impression that they're deliberately looking to leave traditional bluegrass in the dust in fact, their respect for it is abundantly clear but they just can't help moving it to the next level on Blind Man Walking.
Taking it from the top and just how did this wonderful group all find each other ... and was it musical harmony from the very start?! Bryan Simpson - "How DID the stars align in the Cadillac Sky? Well ... after I moved back from Nashville, I tried unsuccessfully several times to put a band together. And it wasn't till I met Matt at a benefit concert that it all started to come together. He was the kerosene on the fire. The next day we met at my Mother-in-laws and played thru some of my tunes I had written. He seemed to dig 'em, and, for me, I don't know what he would say, it was love at first listen."
"Yes, I am comfortable with that statement!? I just knew he was exactly what my songs were needing. From there the pieces fell right in place- I called "Jump" who I had spent numerous nights jamming with at festivals in Texas, holla'd at "The Sturge" (former member Clint Sturgeon) who I had been doing some side gigs with, and then, at the end of our first practice, Matt mentioned he had just done a recording session with a great fiddle player, and tenor singer ... (oh, the obviousness is killing me) yes, of course, Ross. And so the curtain rose on Cadillac Sky!"
"I think it was pretty much musical harmony at first ... maybe not personality harmony - okay, definitely not personality harmony, but like a bad rash we grew on each other, and now we can't get rid of each other!"
For the Average Joe who may not have heard of you and was thinking of buying 'Blind Man Walking,' how would you yourself describe your sound? "Our sound? If you haven't ever bought our music and you're thinking of doing so - we sound like all your favorite bands wrapped up into one. I know it sounds amazing ... my mom thinks so as well ...!"
Your album title 'Blind Man Walking' is an interesting choice, but perhaps it originates from a more personal standpoint for you? Is there a theme to it, perhaps? "'Blind Man Walking' - well, it of course is one of the songs on the record, and the song talks about walking in faith. "Blind Man Walking" was the perfect metaphor for how we approached this record. We just went into the studio to make the best record we could make- not worried about what would happen down the road, or if people would look at us sideways- and just trusting that God had a plan for us, and that he would take care of things in His order. And thank God (literally) it worked out!"
And for those readers that don't know, please reveal to us today where the name of the band first originated ... and what else it could so easily have been at the time?! "The name was given to us from Chief Bingo of the legendary Winstar tribe of Oklahoma. We don't really know what it means exactly, but it sounded cool so it stuck. It could've been "Bobby" or "The Two Legged River Boys". Oh, the luck of it all - pun intended!"
How easy (or hard) is it to constantly create new bluegrass music that both builds on and surpasses the extraordinary accomplishments that preceded it? "Oh, I don't want to think about it. If we thought about that all the time we would get paralysis by analysis for sure ... oh, no, it's too late - we're ruined ... and it's YOUR fault!"
With a band that features two national champion pickers, a respected guitar veteran, an upright bass Phnom and an award winning songwriter, one would say that before you even recorded your first song the (media) pressure was on to succeed! Is there that kind of 'pressure' attached to this project though? "Hey, 'til just recently, I don't think our families thought we could make this a reality. So no, I don't think there was any real pressure. We really had nothing to live up to or live down for that matter - but now ... the ugly sophomore slump lurks in the shadows of "Blind Man Walking", and I'm scared - no, really, I'm shivering right now!"
Please tell us more (in a quick fashion!) about what was going on in your life when these songs were being written and recorded from this new album:
'Born Lonesome' - "My friend, Bob Regan and myself got together for our first write and got to talking about what it takes to make the perfect bluegrasser. And we decided that lonesome was a vital ingredient to cook up the perfect bluegrass stew. But the song makes it clear that it is not sufficient just to be lonesome, nor is it enough to merely feel lonesome, nah, you must be Born Lonesome!"
'You Again' - "It's just a tale of fighting the same old demons. I know I've wrestled some of mine to the ground...Walked away thinking that's the last time I'll fight that battle - only to have them jump up off the mat ready to go again the moment I exhale."
'Sinners Welcome' - "Well, I saw it on a church marquee, and thought it would make a great song. It's so very true, and I am so thankful that we have such a gracious and forgiving God."
Knowing that there is a huge spiritual belief that flows freely through the band, was there a concern not to make this new album too overly spiritual in tone, perhaps? "Overly spiritual? No - I didn't even realize the spiritual tone of the record till after we stepped back from it and listened to it as a whole. But like I said, we made this record without worrying too much about what people would think. We had to - we didn't know if we would be the only ones that would ever hear it."
What '80s (and possibly cheesy!) pop/rock song would you love to cover today if asked ... and why?! "The 80's rock song we would like to cover - REM's 'It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine),' ... maybe?!"
Lastly, Exclusive Magazine love Penguins ... do you?! "Yes - 'March Of The Penguins' - every line memorized!"
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