(Jensen) On their debut album Brand New Distance, Cimarron 615 announce themselves as a vibrant new voice with rich Nashville roots. The 10-song record channels a collective heritage that includes Poco, the Flying Burrito Brothers, and more into a refreshingly contemporary take on harmony-laden, narrative country rock. Brand New Distance is due out April 7, 2023 via KZZ Music. Cimarron 615 just performed at SXSW and will play The Roxy and NAMM in Los Angeles next week with more tour dates to come.
Brand New Distance oozes world-class songcraft and innate musicality enhanced with achingly nuanced vocal harmonies, poignant lyrics, and sinewy solos. Marrying bluegrass instrumentation to breezy California country rock, gritty blues, and pop sensibilities, Cimarron 615 effortlessly traverses everything from stripped-down acoustic arrangements to full-on three-guitar rock.
Cimarron 615's story goes back to country-rock legends Poco and their late frontman Rusty Young, with whom all five members have musical history. When Young passed in 2021, Blue Élan Records head Kirk Pasich organized a tribute concert and album featuring the musicians who would become Cimarron 615 as the house band. The chemistry between the quintet was so palpable that Pasich offered them a record deal as a standalone touring act.
"They've got a history and a legacy but, make no mistake, they're a new band," said Pasich. "Every song on the album could be a single - it's that strong."
Named for the Poco classic "Rose of Cimarron" and Nashville's 615 area code, every member of Cimarron 615 is a respected songwriter, accomplished singer, and virtuosic instrumentalist. The band features Jack Sundrud on vocals and bass; Michael Webb covering a variety of keyboards, plus mandolin and vocals; drummer/percussionist and vocalist Rick Lonow; Bill Lloyd on guitar and vocals; Tom Hampton on guitars, mandolin, banjo, pedal steel, dobro, and vocals.
"It just felt like the natural and right thing to do, creatively," mulled Webb, an in-demand session player who joined Poco in 2010. "All being from Nashville and all being part of the Rusty Young and Poco family, we just had a natural chemistry."
At Pasich's suggestion, each member of Cimarron 615 contributed two songs to Brand New Distance. They devoted a day at Nashville's storied Treasure Isle studio (Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, etc.) to each composition, with the respective songwriter acting as musical director for the session. In a testament to their cohesion and experience, the self-produced collection was essentially recorded live, with minimal overdubs.
"It's not all just hugs and kisses - we also rub up against each other!" laughed Lonow, long among Nashville's first-call drummers. "That chemistry is really what makes the great bands."
Never trite and always honest, Brand New Distance imparts thought-provoking, sometimes deeply personal stories apt to its rootsy cross-pollination of styles. "It's pretty eclectic, because we brought in two songs apiece," said Sundrud, a part of Poco from the mid-'80s to its final incarnation. "There's definitely elements of Poco; elements of bluegrass; elements of blues."
Lloyd, who made three hit albums as half of Foster & Lloyd and played alongside Young in the Sky Kings supergroup, brings poppy accessibility à la Beatles and Big Star to Cimarron 615.
"It's very much a democracy," he said. "I don't see anybody stepping out in some sort of star role. It's a showcase for the songs."
With vast experience in their intriguing mélange of styles at the very highest levels, authentically creating these diverse yet consistently sublime sounds is simply in Cimarron 615's blood. "It's almost a motor response," offered Hampton, a recurring "semi-permanent special guest" of the Marshall Tucker Band who joined Poco in 2020. "Everybody's got a level of familiarity with one another ... a level of instinct."
Brand New Distance features album opener "High Lonesome Stranger," with its instantly evocative bluegrass harmonies and gone-too-soon story inspired by Gram Parsons and Hank Williams. The mandolin driven "Try Again" could be an update on the classic Poco sound that also channels a more contemporary/poppy REM influence. Meanwhile, the brooding "Cain's Blood" wrestles with the duality of human nature - good vs. evil; dark vs. light - against an ominously tribal, minimalist groove.
"Full Bloom" is Lloyd's upbeat, Byrds-esque love letter to the daughter he never had, while "High" is the song that the Grateful Dead's "Uncle John's Band" might be playing when gathered in the woods, transcending everyday troubles through escapist Cali country rock. Yet another standout is inspirational, dynamic album closer "City of Angels," which details the thrills and doubts of a young musician moving to the big city to chase their dreams - a story common to the members of Cimarron 615 and allegoric to so many big life decisions.
Expect a few favorites from Cimarron 615's illustrious pasts as well as improvised surprises that only such dues-paid musicians can provide. But the focus will be on Brand New Distance. "This is our personal, as well as group, investment. And I really look forward to sharing that," said Sundrud. "We have all this experience and history to be able to bring something that feels good to the audience."
In the meantime, Cimarron 615's astoundingly filler-free Brand New Distance is their ultra-accomplished calling card as a singular new act with a charmingly old soul. It's a record that lovingly ushers forward a country rock genre too often steeped in nostalgia, offering the tingling interpersonal dynamics and adventurous spirit that only new bands can capture.
"I hope that our unique voice will stand out," Lonow concluded. "That everyone can enjoy the beauty of the songs, the beauty of the melodies and performances, and at the same time get something deeper from the lyrics and the substance of the songs."
Brand New Distance Tracklist:
High Lonesome Stranger
More At A Distance
Bitter and the Sweet
Find Me When the Night Comes
City of Angels
Cimarron 615 Tour Dates:
April 11 - Roxy Theatre - Los Angeles, CA
April 14 - NAMM - Anaheim, CA