Cimarron 615's new album delivers vibrant new country rock with deep genre roots
On 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 Loretta Lynn into a refreshingly contemporary take on harmony-laden, narrative country rock.
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Brand New Distance oozes world-class songcraft and innate musicality enhanced with achingly nuanced vocal harmonies, poignant lyrics, and sinewy solos. Marrying bluegrass instrumentation (banjo, mandolin, Dobro) 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 Tom Hampton (Marshall Tucker Band, Idlewheel) on guitars, mandolin, banjo, and vocals; Bill Lloyd (Foster & Lloyd, Buck Owens) on guitar and vocals; drummer/percussionist and vocalist Rick Lonow (Loretta Lynn, Flying Burrito Brothers); Jack Sundrud (Vince Gill, Great Plains) on bass and vocals; and Michael Webb (Hank Williams Jr., John Fogerty) covering a variety of keyboards, plus mandolin 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 a hoppy 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 may spawn as many as five singles, among them album opener “High Lonesome Stranger,” with its instantly evocative bluegrass harmonies and gone-too-soon story inspired by Gram Parsons and Hank Williams. Click here to watch the official "High Lonesome Stranger" music video.
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.
Brand New Distance is available today, followed by a Rusty Young documentary also featuring the band later in the year, and an expanding lineup of live shows. Cimarron 615 recently performed at Austin’s South by Southwest conference/festival in March and are now touring coast to coast. “The places that people can go to hear this kind of music are dwindling,” noted Hampton. “I hope we can give those people a home.”
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 all of our investment, personal investments. 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.”