The Black Lillies a Welcome Spotlight for Cruz Contreras

The band's self-titled debut also features Tom Pryor, perhaps Knoxville's most underappreciated instrumentalists.

Last year, Cruz Contreras, formerly the "CC" of Robinella and the CC String Band, returned to playing music in public with a loose group he called the Cruz Contreras Band. He's dropped his name, or even his initials, for The Black Lillies, and he's backed by a classy roster of local rootsy veterans (singer/guitarist Leah Gardner, electric and steel guitarist Tom Pryor, drummer Jamie Cook, and bassist Jeff Woods) but this debut is clearly his record. Contreras shows off his songwriting range with pop-informed bluegrass ("Whiskey Angel"), dark folk ballads ("See Right Through"), and electric blues ("There's Only One"), with an old cowboy song called "Goodbye Mama Blues" thrown in, too. Gardner and Pryor add significant voices—Pryor may, in fact, be Knoxville's most underappreciated instrumentalist—and Woods and Cook ably navigate the rhythmic diversity of the material. Contreras' time in the spotlight's been a long time coming, but it looks like it's going to be worth the wait.