The Black Lillies: '100 Miles of Wreckage'

The Black Lillies

100 Miles of Wreckage

The problem with so-called Americana music has been its amorphous definition—it's not so much something specific as very specifically not something else. The Black Lillies turn this to their advantage on their second album, 100 Years of Wreckage, a stunningly crafted and often inspired tour through country, bluegrass, folk, blues, and soft rock that largely ignores genre distinction in favor of top-notch performances and understated professionalism.

Singer/guitarist/songwriter Cruz Contreras is a transparently gifted vocalist—his voice and delivery are so smooth and effortless that most of the time you'll miss just how good a singer he is. (The support he gets from Trisha Gene Brady helps, too, and you can't help but notice when she shares lead vocals, as on the bluesy roadhouse rocker "Nobody's Business.") The band behind Contreras and Brady—steel guitarist Tom Pryor, bassist Robert Richards, and drummer Jamie Cook—performs with the same kind of ease, shifting from folksy twang ("Three in the Mornin'") to smooth sophistication ("The Arrow") without missing a beat. The band reportedly scrapped the initial studio recordings for the album and opted instead for an almost-live session at the Riverdale School in East Knoxville—the results suggest that was the right choice.