“You can take my truck, take that ol’ blue hound / Take that barn in the back, burn it down to the ground / There’s more to me than an F-150, a dog, and a couple bales of hay,” Jaren Johnston declares at the onset of “This Accent,” close to the end of “Bury Me in My Boots,” the sophomore set from Nashville trio the Cadillac Three. Wait: No truck? No dog? Next you’ll claim you’re not crying into your beer mug over the girl that done you wrong.
Actually, that’s true. Singer-guitarist Johnston and his TC3 buddies, lap-steel player Kelby Ray and drummer Neil Mason, spend a lot of one of the most highly anticipated country albums of 2016 buzzed on whiskey and women, pledging allegiance to the South all the while. Take away those time-worn lyrical conventions, “This Accent” proclaims; the music’s down-home soul will still resound in a voice like Marlboro-scorched leather.
Instead of trucks (which do in fact appear), dogs, and tear-stained ballads, what TC3 offers is “funny cigarettes,” Red Bull, and hot girls: the contemporary equivalent of a “Dukes of Hazzard” marathon, with all the mindless fun that idea implies.
Which certainly isn’t to suggest Johnston’s head is empty. Not for nothing has he become one of modern country’s more promising hitmakers, with chart smashes by Tim McGraw, Jake Owen, and Keith Urban to his credit. Given the Southern-rock pedigree TC3 established on its 2012 debut album, it’s no wonder the trio is comfortable sharing bills with ZZ Top and Lynyrd Skynyrd, or that Steven Tyler enlisted Johnston to pitch in on the Aerosmith singer’s Nashville-rooted solo album, “We’re All Somebody From Somewhere.”
If there’s a serious reservation to be leveled at “Bury Me in My Boots,” it’s that Johnston & Co. spend more time proclaiming their country-rock dual citizenship than proving it with playing as emphatically crunchy, even downright grungy, as what you heard on their debut. Bragging about toking to Willie (Nelson) and chugging brews with Billy (Gibbons) in the righteously rowdy “Soundtrack to a Six Pack” is all well and good, but it’s hard to imagine anyone getting roused by “Hot Damn,” where a limp couplet (“Well girl, you put the sex in sexy / And girl, you put the cray in crazy”) prefaces an inexplicable one (“Put the jag in Jagger / Put the hag in Haggard”).
Happily, though, that’s just one song among a stack that tips this slick, radio-ready effort into party-starter territory. The three-year-old single “The South,” with its guest spots by Florida Georgia Line, Dierks Bentley, and Mike Eli, might be the strongest cut, but there’s plenty here — the sinuous “Drunk Like You,” anthemic “Graffiti,” sly “Ship Faced,” and crunchy “Peace Love & Dixie” — to prove the Cadillac Three’s figurative truck has plenty of gas in the tank, its dog still hunts.
The Cadillac Three performs with Florida Georgia Line at Xfinity Center, Mansfield, Aug. 5.Steve Smith can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @nightafternight.