While technically a CMA Fest event, the Cadillac Three delivered a gritty and often improvised alternative to the highly produced TV taping going on across the river at Nissan Stadium on Friday night. During their concise, stout headlining set at Ascend Amphitheater — dubbed “The Cadillac Three & Friends” — the Nashville trio incorporated a horn section, added Charlie Worsham as second guitarist, and leaned into the “& Friends” part of the billing by performing a pair of songs with Little Big Town and Elvie Shane.
The band kicked off “Hillbilly” with Shane, who performed his own set earlier in the night, before singer-guitarist Jaren Johnston — in a Cadillac AF shirt, sans sleeves — beckoned Little Big Town from the wings. The Cadillac Three released “Hillbilly” in February as a cautionary collab with Shane and Old Crow Medicine Show’s Ketch Secor, but live it had all the ominous vibes of a snake-handling ceremony thanks to the harmonies from LBT. The quartet stuck around for another performance, knocking their own “Wine, Beer, Whiskey” out of the park with help from TC3’s guest horn players.
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Dubbed “The Cadillac Three & Friends” and featuring a lineup of Randy Rogers Band, Boy Named Banjo, Tenille Townes, and Shane, the show culminated with a group rendition of the Cadillac Three signature “The South.” Johnston, bassist/steel player Kelby Ray, and drummer Neil Mason came to the front of the stage to lead a call-and-response of the song’s defiant testimonial with their guests: “This is where I was born/and this is where I’ll die.”
Of note: The guest shot by Worsham helps make an argument for the Mississippi musician being the hardest working guy at CMA Fest. On Thursday, he covered Aerosmith and Tom Petty songs at a Gibson Garage party; played with Dierks Bentley at Spotify House on Friday; hosts his Donuts and Jam Fan Party on Saturday morning and performs at Warner Music Nashville’s Summer Sounds Stage that afternoon; and will reunite with Bentley onstage at Nissan Stadium on Sunday night.
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