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Skaggs Family Records seems to have a knack for finding and signing exciting young bluegrass bands. Cadillac Sky's first nationally released album, Blind Man Walking, has all the fire of a freshman release coupled with the polish of a doctoral thesis. How many bluegrass bands have quotes from Marcel Proust on their liner notes?
Although their press release describes Cadillac Sky as "progressive" their sound is much closer to traditional bands such as Lonesome River or Blue Highway than to revolutionary bands like Crooked Still or Darol Anger's Republic of Strings. Cadillac Sky's music is grounded by the solid songwriting of mandolinst and vocalist Bryan Simpson who wrote twelve of the thirteen songs on the album. He's joined by Winfield champion banjo player Matt Menefee, Mike Jump on guitar and vocals, Ross Holmes on fiddle and vocals and Andy Moritz on bass and vocals. Notice how everybody except Menefee in the band sings? Cadillac Sky's vocal harmonies are as tight as any band in the business and remind me at times of Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver. These guys are all superb pickers. However unlike many young bands, Cadillac Sky doesn't go overboard with their solos. They save the fireworks for instrumentals such as their original "Neighborhood Bully's Long Look in The Mirror." The biggest difference between Cadillac Sky and older, more established bluegrass bands, stems from their energy and forward motion. They have the drive of Ricky Skaggs' Kentucky Thunder or Rhonda Vincent's Rage, but with less showbiz polish. I consider that a good thing. Totally hot bluegrass bands sometimes get too slick (because they can) and they loose some of the grit and fundamental funk needed to stay grounded. Cadillac Sky strikes a perfect balance.
Sonically Blind Man Walking keeps pace with the music. The sound is very clean yet warm. Some critics might find the synthesized "olde tyme" sound for the first thirty seconds of the first cut contrived and clichéd, but it's only 30 seconds and can easily be forgiven once the sonic façade ceases. For the next 53 minutes chief engineer and mixer Eric Legg delivers pristine clarity. Unlike some bands' early recording efforts, which can take quite a bit of time in the studio to polish, Cadillac Sky needed only two days to lay down the instrumental tracks and three days for vocals. Considering that they didn't have an outside producer to push them forward, the feat of recording an entire album in five days is even more remarkable.
Releases from new young bands such as Cadillac Sky make it look like 2007 is going to be a banner year for bluegrass. Start your winter right by giving Blind Man Walking a listen. There's a very good chance it will wind up in your collection.