Cadillac Sky

Blind Man Walking

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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 clear-as-a-bell lead vocalist met by perfectly complementary harmony voices (some sound like they've been lifted straight from the pure-pop likes of the Beatles or CSN&Y). 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.

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