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Bridget’s Cadillac is an interesting match up of musicians that make a definite throwback to nostalgia with their music. Images of a smoky club in the 30s enter the mind, but there are also parts of Americana folk that pull from the early 1900s into the 1950s that shine out in this album titled “Baby Blue.” If all you like to listen to is EDM and heavy metal, it’s ok to quit reading now.
The members consist of (or I should say consisted), Bridget Ideker, a singer-songwriter who had been performing in the area for the last few years and gained notoriety after winning the Beaner’s Central Songwriter’s Contest in 2014. Back then she was performing as Bridget Anne and at some point started playing with a long time musician in the general area, Vincent “Cadillac” Hladilek. I first met Hladilek a long time ago when he played bass and guitar with punk acts from Ashland such as The Smerves. When Hladilek moved up to the Twin Ports area his sound toned down to more of a Delta Blues feel mixed with some Americana folk. Hladilek had moved to often playing resonator acoustics or hollow body electrics as he does in this project. On percussion is Nick Petoletti who also has a past with playing with some pretty avant-garde and heavy bands such as Timmy Jacks Off; pretty much the farthest you can get as far as genre gets from Bridget’s Cadillac. Finally, rounding out the band, is the harp (the harmonica kind) of the well known poet and story teller, Patrick McKinnon. Pick up a Transistor in Duluth and read his often strange and raw writings in his story column called “10-6 Return.” I’m assuming that Hladilek, being a Beaner’s regular, somehow met Bridget through the establishment, but I’m not totally sure and it doesn’t really matter. In the end there’s not many bands who have this sound in the area.
The band released this album at the end of June with one final show and Bridget moved out of the area. I’ve noticed that when musicians move out of the area, it’s not uncommon for them to visit and play a reunion show, so keep your fingers crossed. For now, without Ideker, it’s fair to say the band is on infinite hiatus.
To make a couple of comparisons to the band’s sound, think of Squirrel Nut Zippers, but perhaps a bit more minimalistic or if you’ve ever played the retro-futuristic set Fallout 3 or 4, the soundtrack of old-timey songs come close except not really themed on the apocalypse.
The album starts off with the track “Secret Agent.” It has a mix of a Delta Blues mixed with lounge sound, but with a 50s or 60s rock song structure. Hladilek’s guitar carries along with vocals in a mix of leads and picking. There’s something a little awkward about the song itself. There’s a sense of improvisation, which in of itself isn’t bad, but there is quite a bit of repetition with the lyrics that don’t really go anywhere with this and a number of the songs. I think the band is going for something that would have a feeling noir or mystery and it kind of falls flat. A large part of the song is asking about the secret agent and “where he goes…I’ve got to know where does he go?”
The next track, “Cherry Lane,” is a 12-bar blues song of sorts that starts with just talking about “I’m walking down Cherry Lane” over and over. The song gets a little more interesting with some discussion of dying and leaving “something under the mattress to see you through and through.”
The song “Big Boss” also is another blues song that has images of 30s gangster/noir but it doesn’t go too far until he’s “banging on my door now” and eventually is “at my gravesite, you’ll feel so very tall, I just know it.” The harp and backing vocals by McKinnon add to chorus and jamming with Hladelik in certain areas of the song.
The album includes the cover “Freight Train” originally done by the folk singer Elizabeth Cotten, a self taught musician known for her somewhat unconventional guitar style referred to as “Cotten picking.” The song was written in the early 1900s and released in 1956 which fits the feel of most of the songs on this album. Ideker takes it on herself to sing some train whistle parts and pulls it off well.
The most fun song on the album in my opinion is the song “Allergic to You.” “I thought you could be be my honey bee, you were so cute so cute and bumbly/but no, you’re a hornet it’s plain to see all you do is just sting me and leave.” Yes, there is still some repetition with the chorus but the song is well written as a likable folk number and feels timeless in its catchiness.
This album stayed very straight up and minimal. While taking on a project that is supposed to be nostalgic, obviously one won’t want to have a bunch of pitch shifting on the vocals or crazy digital sounds going on, but it is rather dry. Rich Mattson from Sparta Sound typically does a good job, but if the plan were to make a stripped down feeling album, they succeeded and I have mixed feelings on that.
While there are a few things that I might liked to have seen different with the album, one thing is for certain, Ideker has charisma. She has body in her voice and she totally owns it. She’s not an opera singer (or at least it doesn’t seem that way in the material), but she’s not shy to let some personality out. Her live performances make that come out all the more. The band holds things down well enough, it’s mainly the guitar standing out making the harmonica kind of an after thought. This is probably good because if the harp had been any more “leady” it might have started to become a distraction. Petoletti stayed in the background on drums for the most part, which is also fine because overdone drum solos aren’t really what this music needs anyway. As far as this style of music in the area, there’s not a whole lot of people doing it, especially with this arrangement. In that sense, they did a good job and I think this album was more to just document their time together and have some fun over delivering the most flawless album ever. If you’ve seen them live and liked what you heard or just like old school music from the early 20th century, you may enjoy this album. I’m not sure where it’s available, but hitting up the band’s Facebook might be a good way to find out.