by: Thomas D. Mooney
“Slippin’ & a-slidin’, playin’ Dominos
Leftin’ & a-rightin’ ain’t a crime, you know
Well, I gotta tell the story before it’s time to go
Are you ready for the country?
Are you ready for me?
Are you ready for the country?
Ain’t that a sight to see?”
–Waylon Jennings “Are You Ready For the Country”
Neil Young wrote that. Sort of. Back in ’72, Young’s version of “Are You Ready For the Country?” showed up on the classic record “Harvest.” It was piano driven jangler. Some four years later, Jennings re-recorded it with a few lyric changes for is ’76 record of the same name. Those changes made it into a rambling, in your face, outlaw country anthem. When Jennings sang “Are you ready for the country,” it wasn’t him asking you; it was a statement. Had he sang “You better be ready for my country,” it’d have been no different.
Where Young was passive, Jennings–in a way only Jennings could–was confident and aggressive.
You couldn’t pick out a better opening statement for local singer-songwriter Danny Cadra to say himself. When you’re talking to Cadra about his music, you see that chorus in his eyes. He’s essentially saying “Are you ready for the country? Are you ready for me?” with each sentence. It’s not that he’s being smug. He’s just letting you should expect some traditional country. No fluff.
Cadra recently won The Blue Light’s Fall Singer-Songwriter Competition with his traditional waltzes and country tunes. Even more recently, he’s released his first single, “The Leavin’ You Love,” which has become a favorite on local radio. You’ll unconsciously find yourself singing along with Cadra as he croons about possibly sleeping on the wrong side of the bed and drinking his coffee too black.
Like anyone who grew up during the ’90s, you’ll pick up on all the nostalgic properties “The Leavin’ You Love” is armed with. They’re there, but don’t come across as being cheesy or cliché. They just make you yearn for more. In the mean time, you’ll just have to throw on some Dwight Yoakam and George Strait to fulfill you fix.
New Slang: You’ve got a real old, classic era country sound and style. It’s something not really being done these days.
Danny Cadra: It kind of seems like it would never come back, but I don’t know, if someone like Larry Joe and Dave Perez are digging it, well maybe there’s room for some stuff like that to break into the airwaves again. I know Neely has always liked my traditional stuff that I write. She’s just been waiting for me to get an album going and it’s like now, a flame has been lit under my butt. Finally getting to doing something [laughs].
NS: You mentioned you’re on your way to the studio after this. What are you currently working on?
DC: Well, I’ve probably put down 25 different vocal tracks of the same song. This song called “The Leavin’ You Love.” I’ve already got the rhythm guitar laid down. I’ve got Steve Williams, he’s an instructor over at South Plains, just a phenomenal guitarist–with every kind of guitar there is. He came in two days ago at Jon Taylor’s studio and laid down a whole bunch of tracks of what we’re going to do tonight…Between this, the Larry Joe Taylor thing, and I just had a child six weeks ago, it’s been a so busy.
NS: I can imagine–and congratulations.
DC: Thanks. You know, I’ve never considered myself a songwriter. I mean, I write songs, but not a whole lot. I’ve always felt, you know, that I wasn’t in the same stratus as my peers. They’re always constantly writing and writing and writing. And that’s just not what I do. I’m more about the performing and singing and delivering messages–whether their mine or somebody else’s. That’s what I feed off of. I just love being the messenger. That’s what I’ve always liked about country music. The traditional style, it’s just simple and tells these stories that people can relate to. You’re just like, “man, I’m not alone. That guy feels like that too? Awesome.” Know what I mean? But ever since I had my daughter, my songwriting has picked up. It’s like I have this purpose now that I’ve never had before. I’m finding that I’m telling myself, “you can write better than you think you can.” These last six weeks, I’ve been writing songs like I never have. It’s pretty cool.
NS: What was that feeling or reason why you decided to enter the fall singer-songwriter competition?
DC: Well, I’d entered it before. One time, I made it to the finals and got third place. It was the first time they ever had it. Then I entered it again trying to win it and didn’t even get by the preliminaries. Finally–and I have to say, Russell Shahan, he told me to just do it. I said OK. I had my mind made up to do the first week of the contest and I had my daughter that day. It was like “guess I’m not going up to Blue Light tonight [laughs].” Finally, it was like the last week of the prelim rounds and I was like, “I better get on up there.” I had played these two old stand by songs I had written years ago. They were just two really contrasting tunes. One was really a slow ballad and the other was a quick, uptempo tune. And those did well.
NS: What was the initial thought when they said your name? Was it more “you sure?” or more “about damn time [laughs]?”
DC: [laughs]. Well they had narrowed it down to four from the finals group. I was just stoked I had made the cut. I just had this feeling of it being now or never and decided to sing this song I had written the day before my little girl was born. The last part is about her. There’s no reason not to. Let’s just shove some super super country waltz down their throat. And they dug it. After they said I won, I was just like “You got to be kidding me.” I’ve been to the Larry Joe Taylor Fest the last three years. That place is like Never Neverland for me [laughs]. You can do anything you want there and there’s just music everywhere. Campfire after campfire after campfire. Just hop from one to the next and meet people and hear songs you’ve never heard before. Just to know that I get to play there now, I’m still pinching myself. I still just can’t believe it.
NS: You’ve said your sound is “neo-traditionalist revivalist.” Go more into what that means.
DC: First and foremost, other than my older brother, my biggest influence in music would be Merle Haggard. Our voices are so similar. He’s a baritone singer. Me personally, I don’t think there will ever be anybody who will pass him because he’s a singer, a songwriter, and a picker all that the ridiculously same high level. Just untouchable. There’s some people who sing better than him. There’s some who pick better. There’s some who write better than him. But to do it all at that ridiculously high level is just amazing. Guys like him, they really opened me up to the country world. My brother, he’s a metal drummer, so I grew up on lots of metal music. I had this brother in Andrews who was this huge Merle Haggard fan. And I started to listen to Merle and just thought it was just so real. How do you connect to all these songs? The way he sang. I’m a trumpet player and I played for about 17 years of my life. It’s a real melodic instrument. I’ve always been drawn to melodies first. It’s a reason why I think Daniel Markham’s music is just amazing to me. He’s just got some of the best melodies ever. So that’s what just draws me in. Anyways, so I just started digging down into all this country music, and fortunately for me, it was the ’90s, which is this neo-traditionalist era. They brought back a lot of the same things done during the ’60s.
NS: Like the Dwight Yoakams.
DC: Exactly. Like Dwight. George Strait has always had this tradition sense to him. All these guys like Clay Walker, Clint Black. All those guys. They just kind of died off. You know, in the late ’70s, country became this crossover poppy genre. They had a lot of crossover tunes. That’s what it’s become now, except for a longer time. I mean, I hate to bad mouth bands, but man. Like Rascal Flatts. Dude, that’s the furthest thing from country. How are they in the country genre? I just can’t understand that…I just have a feeling that kind of stuff is coming back.