Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Cadillac Sky at Snobird & Cracker

Ted Lehmann posted an in-depth review of last week's Snobird & Cracker Bluegrass Reunion at Craig's RV Park in Arcadia FL. Here are his comments about the three festival performances by the progressive string band Cadillac Sky. Read here for Ted's full report.


Cadillac Sky is a progressive bluegrass band coming out of Texas. All their instruments are miked and their presentation is strongly rock influenced. The five men in the band are each accomplished musicians and fine singers. Their performance is strong and well-choreographed. This band is part of the Ricky Skaggs stable of performers and recording artists and have received considerable attention over the past two or three years. They are currently working on their third CD.

[Brian Simpson of Cadillac Sky. Photo by Ted Lehmann.]

The audience for a festival like Snobird & Cracker vastly prefers listening to traditional bluegrass. The challenge facing a band like Cadillac Sky when they appear before such a crowd is to win the crowd over before moving into their preferred mode. This can be done by taking the stage and opening with several pieces of hard-driving bluegrass music from the Monroe/Flatt & Scruggs era to show both respect for the founders and then the ability to reproduce this music. After such a showing, the band can move towards its preferred music and probably keep the audience in its seats.

By taking this posture, Cadillac Sky could broaden their appeal and remain true to their preferred tone, pace, and sound. Cadillac Sky chose not to take this route and early lost much of the audience to volume, electrified instruments, and their brashness. Many people left before they gave this excellent young band sufficient chance to show its stuff. In the middle of their set, for instance, they produced a very fine version of “How Mountain Girls Can Love” which, had they chosen to open with it, might have done the trick.

To ignore or disdain the audience is self defeating for Cadillac Sky and deprives them of a part of the audience they could capture by showing them greater respect. Individual musicianship and singing in this group is of the highest quality and they deserve widespread recognition. At present, they have chosen to go for a younger, more hip audience. Those people were present on Friday night and very much enjoyed the show. It’s a little sad they weren’t joined by the older contingent who went home.

Cadillac Sky had the last afternoon slot before dinner break and would later close out the evening as the festival’s major headliner. After going through their too lengthy changeover of microphones, hookups, and sound checks, they kicked off their performance and won back the audience.

They played with a little less volume and showed a more genuine feeling for and appreciation of their audience. This resulted in a much more listenable set which held a significantly larger portion of the crowd in their seats. I’ve heard Cadillac Sky at least two other times. This set was the first one they offered in which I could truly understand the lyrics of their songs. Since their lyrics are powerful and their voices, especially Mike Jump’s, very good, this stood as a significant improvement for me.

Apparently the audience agreed, because they were greeted with great enthusiasm. Their evening set, beginning shortly after 9:00 PM held a slightly smaller, but highly enthusiastic crowd. While somewhat more amped up than earlier, Cadillac Sky showed a continued awareness of their audience, suggesting a new maturity. This band has a great future in bluegrass, Americana, and indie rock festivals and can build their reputation by proving themselves flexible enough to appeal to all audiences. They made a big step up at Snobird & Cracker.

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