Should come with a drinking game requiring listeners to take a shot every time any of the requisite country lyrical staples are mentioned.
On Country Fuzz, the Nashville-based trio the Cadillac Three double down on their particular brand of Southern-fried country rock, going full twang without sounding wholly affected. Much of this is due to their tight, riff-based songwriting which helps (somewhat) forgive the more bro-country-leaning lyrical tropes on tracks like “The Jam.” In lesser hands, the track would be an eye-roller with lyrics like “Got a tall boy sweating in a camo koozie” and the self-referential, “Cadillac back with some kick-ass country.” But thanks to the group’s instrumental prowess and affinity for ZZ Top, et al., it manages to skate by on the seemingly endless series of hooky riffs that underscore the hokier elements.
“Hard Out Here for a Country Boy,” on the other hand, is an assembly-line approved bit of 21st-century country songwriting that checks all the requisite lyrical boxes and, for good measure, features ‘90s country star Travis Tritt. In other words, it’s the epitome of modern country music’s most cringe-worthy elements, albeit delivered with a rock ‘n’ roll rather than hip-hop swagger, perhaps in an attempt to add an air of authenticity and legitimacy. By bringing in Tritt (and Chris Janson) for this particular track, they manage to tap into the rising crest of ‘90s nostalgia that has long since taken over the rest of popular culture and seems to only just be hitting the country market, while also honoring the longstanding country tradition of honoring one’s predecessors.
“Slow Rollin’” is a grinding bit of classic rock pastiche full of heavy riffs, serpentine slide guitar and sub-Bonham drumming. It, like much of the rest of Country Fuzz, is completely derivative, however it manages to stand on its own two legs solely through the muscular execution and unmitigated swagger. In other words, so much of the album is so lyrically absurd that they can’t help but play it to the hilt; even the slightest waver would make songs like “All the Makin’s of a Saturday Night” and “Crackin’ Cold Ones with the Boys” laughable at best, pitiable at worst. But again, Cadillac Three here play like a modern day ZZ Top for the country radio market; how ridiculous did songs like “Cheap Sunglasses,” “Tush” and “Legs” seem when initially released? Not that anything on Country Fuzz is necessarily destined for class rock radio immortality, but it’s the same basic idea throughout.
“Nobody wants to be a label,” sings Jaren Johnston on the album’s lone stab at profundity, “Labels.” It’s a jarring transition into semi-serious territory following a string of nonstop party-themed rockers and one that threatens to derail the proceedings. It’s a quick detour, however, as they quickly return to the usual gamut of lyrical tropes on “Raise Hell.” Which is unfortunate because “Labels,” while not necessarily a great song on its own, shows the band pushing itself both thematically and musically with its brooding, minor-key melody and burly bass. It’s the band’s lone “artistic” moment on an album full of songs that are otherwise in keeping with their established brand of outlaw country/classic rock-aping songwriting.
At 16 songs and nearly 50 minutes, Country Fuzz is the band’s longest offering to date, and admittedly, it feels like it. Once you’ve heard one Cadillac Three song you’ve essentially heard them all. Sixteen tracks (well, 15 if you discount “Labels”) of made-to-order countrified lyrics and bluesy southern rock riffs can be more than a bit tiring for all but those ready for a Saturday night out, drinking cheap whiskey, cruising backroads in their pickup with their best bros in a small town, looking for trouble and a dive bar to kill some time or maybe find a little country gal to go home with, smoke some weed and listen to some Waylon or Willie or [insert country icon’s name here]. You get the idea.
Country Fuzz is the kind of album that should come with a drinking game requiring listeners to take a shot (preferably of whatever liquor is mentioned in the song) every time any of the requisite country lyrical staples are mentioned. You’d be blackout drunk by the third song. Good luck getting through the whole album without having to have your stomach pumped. But hell, that seems to be the intention anyway. Know your audience and market to them accordingly, I suppose.