Album review: CHA CHA’s CADILLAC – Battle Hymn

CHA CHA's CADILLAC – Battle Hymn

Cha Cha’s Cadillac [Release date 28.11.14]

32 years and plenty of miles separate the cowpunk of San Diego’s The Beat Farmers and the roots rockabilly and alt. country appeal Cha Cha’s Cadillac, but cutting edge rocking music is still alive, well and prospering in Richmond Virginia courtesy of Cha Cha’s Cadillac’s ‘Battle Hymn’.

The unashamedly retro Cha Cha’s Cadillac also use the label cow punk and you can’t beat a band with a mission statement that says they are: “dedicated to creating songs about cars, chicks and kickin’ butt.”

They are a fiercely independent southern rockabilly combo that has cut 11 self penned tracks that draw from the past but they add their own twist.

Of course they have a lot of history to live up to, but they do so with plenty to spare, from the jumping rockabilly opener ‘Going To Bakersfield’ and the lyrical edge of ‘Lonesome Cowboy Vietnam’ to the declamatory ‘Shotgun Band’ outro.

The duet harmony vocals of percussionist Heather Taylor and guitarist Sean Contreras, are perfectly offset by the drum tight rhythm section of Steve Wyse on bass and vocals and the rock steady beat of drummer Randy Jett, who adds propulsive swing to tracks like ‘Bulletproof’.

There’s a little more depth to the band’s songs than mere good time rocking, as evidenced by the pounding opening of ‘Be Free of My Heart’, which almost immediately drops down on a jangling chorus to confound expectations.

Cha Cha’s Cadillac plays rockabilly on it’s own terms, for while the track repeatedly returns to its blistering opening, this is a band that thinks nothing of veering beyond the pines with their own lyric-led material.

‘Battle Hymn’ is a contemporary album routed in Hank Williams, Elvis, Chuck Berry and Johnny Cash, flavoured by Charlie Daniels and given its energy by the likes of Stray Cats.

Their own music is intense, edgy and goes beyond their self labelled cowpunk to search out broader musical horizons, but if the label provides the band with a starting point by which to drag people to the party who cares?

They tear things up on ‘Sound of a Train’, with familiar lyrics about the dispossessed, which might have been penned during the great depression but eerily reflects a contemporary reality for many. Not that you get bogged down in depressing lyrics as the band’s shimmering train-time rhythms barrel down the tracks, pausing only for the unexpected slide-led and bigger sounding alt country of ‘180 Grain’. They follow that with the whip crack rockabilly of ‘Bulletproof’, featuring Heather’s opening lead vocal over a jumping rhythm track.

They also add variety with more slide, echo reverb, plenty of twang and lush harmonies on ‘Pepe Lopez’, complete with a catchy Latino hook.

‘Drink It Away’ is  a Hank Williams style bottom of the bottle lament,  while the splendidly titled ‘Cocaine and Hand Grenades’ has a real visceral quality to it,  topped by Steve and Heather’s contrasting wiry and resonant vocals.

The album finishes with ‘Shotgun Band’, a dirgy country tinged blues that comes with the defiant line: “Cos we’re here to play the way we play and that’s just the way it is. We’re the shotgun band playing wherever we can, creeping cross the land”.

And they do just that with bags of style and all delivered on their own terms. This is the stuff alt. country was invented for. Crank it up and enjoy.  ****

Review by Pete Feenstra

Pete Feenstra presents his Rock & Blues Show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Tuesday at 19:00 GMT, and “The Pete Feenstra Feature” on Sundays at 19:00

In his show broadcast on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio on 10 May David Randall played a further selection of artists and albums included in the new Features series, “2020 Vision”.

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