The Black Lillies

The Black Lillies

BandAmericana

The band has appeared on the Grand Ole Opry, several nationally broadcast PBS television shows, NPR's Mountain Stage, and festivals including Bonnaroo Music + Arts, Country Music Association Festival and Fan Fair, and Americana Music Association Festival. Currently charting on Americana radio.

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Biography

By Steve Wildsmith, The Daily Times

Those familiar with the background of Black Lillies frontman Cruz Contreras are often struck with a single question when the man opens his mouth to sing:

Why?

Why, given the rich baritone that can range from languid to intense, from reverently hushed to brashly bombastic, did it take so long?

Obviously, he’s no stranger to music. He is the man who loaned out his initials to Robinella and the CCstringband, which flirted with national fame a few years ago with a hit (“Man Over”) on Country Music Television and an appearance on “Late Night With Conan O’Brien” in 2003. Maybe it took a while for him to find his voice – not the literal one, the one that makes you think of Randy Travis or Dan Tyminski or even the great Ralph Stanley in his prime. We’re talking about that other voice – the one steeped in regret, seasoned with pain and tempered in the fires of hard times.

You see, Cruz almost gave it all up. After records on Sony and Dualtone, Robinella and the CCstringband split – figuratively and literally. Cruz lost his wife, his home, his way. It’s a funny thing, though, the way music takes hold of a man. He spent the summer of 2008 driving a truck, and by the end of that year had the skeleton of an album ready to go.

Whiskey Angel was born from the ashes of one career, and shortly after its release, the East Tennessee music scene learned quickly that Cruz was as much of a bandleader as his ex-wife was when he stood in her shadow. In fact, Whiskey Angel made you forget there was ever anything for Cruz Contreras before The Black Lillies – the band that he brought together to record an entire album over the course of a weekend in his living room.

The Black Lillies take their name from a song on that first record. After filtering through several lineup changes, Cruz assembled a crackerjack team of pickers, players and singers who have what it takes to put meat on those songs. Tom Pryor made a name for himself playing pedal steel for damn near any band that could talk him into it; drummer Jamie Cook anchored the rhythm section for Americana darlings the everybodyfields; harmony vocalist Trisha Gene Brady can wail like a hellcat or purr like a wildcat, and everybody who’s heard her sing agrees it only makes sense that someone with her pipes can provide the perfect counter-balance to Cruz. Bassist Robert Richards is the latest addition to the band, and under his steely-eyed gaze, no bass, stand-up or electric, stands a chance.

And then there’s the bandleader himself. Standing in front of the pack, he guides his team with the dignified aplomb of those greats of old – Buck Owens with the Buckaroos, or Bob Wills commanding his Texas Playboys. He knows how to work the crowd, at ease behind the mic, in front of a piano or caressing the necks of a mandolin or guitar. In fact, it’s rare for Cruz to be presented with an instrument he doesn’t play, and everything he does finds its way gently worked into The Black Lillies’ aesthetic with all the swirls and flourishes of brush strokes on canvas laid down by a master painter.

With Whiskey Angel, The Black Lillies established themselves, and it didn’t take long for them to make their mark on the national scene. They kicked off their first national tour at the Ryman Auditorium, the hallowed mother church of country music, and have since labored through three cross-country treks, with a fourth planned for the summer of 2011. They’ve performed on the Grand Ole Opry, National Public Radio’s Mountain Stage and on two episodes of PBS’s Jammin’ at Hippie Jack’s, and they’ve conquered numerous festivals – Pickathon, the Country Music Association Festival and Fan Fair, Americana Music Association Festival, Four Corners Folk Festival, Bristol Rhythm and Roots, even Bonnaroo.

Along the way, the scribes who keep tabs on what’s worth listening to in this day and age have taken quite a shine to Whiskey Angel. It topped 2009 best-of lists across the country and is currently nominated for Best Americana Album by the Independent Music Awards. It isn’t uncommon for listeners to say that the music has taken hold of their soul. It’s earthy and gritty and melancholy in a way old mountain music was a century ago, speaking of pain and love and revenge and revelry with such spirit, such genuine celebration and sorrow, that it seems to be an album carved out of the planks of a backwoods cabin abandoned during the Great Depression more than a thing recorded in a living room studio by one man.

And as good as it is … as great as it is … it’s a drop in the bucket, because 100 Miles of Wreckage is here. The sophomore record takes what Cruz built in Whiskey Angel and fortifies it, a rustic sound without name and place, unbeholden to geographic region or easy classification. It’s an album crafted with precision and care by musicians who are masters of their trade, who believe in The Black Lillies’ vision and who hold fast to the notion that goo

Lyrics

Midnight

Written By: Cruz Contreras

I’ve not a dollar to my name
Mister could you share a little change
It’s getting cold and I’m alone
Just a little help on your way home

I used to sell carpets down in Georgia
Makin’ good money for me and my gal
I came home from work early
I wish to the lord I would have called

A tortured month in Atlanta
No escape from the pain
I squandered all that I was given
Gonna go were no one knows my name

Chorus

Now it’s midnight under the railroad tracks
One eye open, watchin’ my back
There’s only one for me to blame
I never thought life would turn out this way
I never thought life would turn out this way

In this town everybody knows my game
They see me comin’ and they look away
I could get a job and make them proud
But I’d surely let them down
Yes I know I’d let ‘em down

(Chorus)

Hey there buddy you’re my friend
It’s all the same in the end
What you’ve done for the least of mine
I’ll remember for sometime
Yes I’ll remember for sometime

(Chorus)

The Arrow

Written By: Cruz Contreras

Verse1

There lies the arrow, there lies the heart
There lie the lovers, love torn apart, (love torn apart)

One heart bleeding, one heart so cold
One hand pleading, no hand to hold, (no hand to hold)

Verse 2

There lie the bodies, gone are the souls
Flown from the wreckage, wandering alone

And time, precious time
Will not bring back, (will not bring back)

Chorus

Young lovers, young lovers, hold on, (hold on)
Young lovers, young lovers, hold on, to one another, (to one another)

Verse 3

There stand the walls, fallen memories
Only a ghost, haunting
Once there was beauty, once there was trust
Once there was laughter, heard from above

(Chorus)

There lies the arrow, there lies the heart
There lie the lovers, love torn apart, love torn apart

Shepherd's Song

Written By: Cruz Contreras

I left my home in the year of ‘21
Blamed for the killin’, a crime I had not done
I’ll live no more in Texas but the hills of Tennessee
Goodbye wife and children, never more to see

On the banks of the river a shepherd’s wages paid
Shelter food and clothing, honest work each day
At night I hear their voices sayin’ “where have you gone?
Paw we’re cold and hungry, don’t let us be alone.”

Chorus

But I cannot go back, I’ll not return
There’s a hangman waiting, a sheriff’s warrant served
And if I was a freeman in the state that I was born
I’d go home to Texas never more to roam

Verse 3

In the seventh season the fates came to me
Sayin’ “your love has remarried and you must let her be.
The children they are taken care though never you will see.”
Damn the man who cursed that land, never I’ll be free

(Chorus)

(Solo over verse)

Sunshine stirrin’, youth but a memory
A letter came to my door though I could not read
Said “the man who done the killin’, he has now confessed.
Truth came from a death bed, your case is now dismissed.”

But I cannot go back, I’ll not return
There’s no one waiting, memories unearned
And if I was a young man in the state that I was born
I’d go home to Texas never more to roam

Discography

Debut album: Whiskey Angel
CURRENT NOMINEE: 10th Annual Independent Music Awards, Best Album (Americana)

Singles receiving radio airplay:
Whiskey Angel
There's Only One
Cruel
Midnight
Where the Black Lillies Grow
Little Darlin'
Goodbye Mama Blues

New album released January 22, 2011:
100 Miles of Wreckage

Singles receiving radio airplay:
The Arrow
Nobody's Business
Two Hearts Down
Ain't My Fault
Go to Sleep
Shepherd's Song
The Same Mistakes
Tall Trees

National radio and press campaign hitting April 4, 2011 (12 week campaign)
Album available via CIMS stores nationwide April 28, 2011

Set List

Originals from Whiskey Angel

1. Whiskey Angel
2. See Right Through
3. Cruel
4. Midnight
5. Yes I Know
6. There’s Only One
7. Goodbye Mama Blues
8. The Distance
9. Little Darlin’
10. Where The Black Lillies Grow
11. Lonely

Originals from 100 Miles of Wreckage:

12. Two Hearts Down
13. The Arrow
14. Same Mistakes
15. Three in the Mornin'
16. Nobody's Business
17. Shepherd's Song
18. Peach Pickin'
19. Soul of Man
20. Tall Trees
21. Ain't My Fault
22. Go to Sleep

New Originals

23. Ruby
24. Falsehearted Lover
25. A Thousand Stars
26. Triple D Blues
27. My Father’s Song

Covers

26. Two Soldiers
27. Slewfoot
28. The Cuckoo
29. Lil Martha
30. Hard Times
31. Shady Grove
32. Blue Moon of Kentucky
33. Curly Headed Baby
34. Paradise
35. Up on the Blue Ridge Mountain
36. Katy Dear
37. My Bucket’s Got a Hole in it
38. There Ain’t No One Like You
39. House of Gold
40. Mississippi Kid
41. If I Needed You
42. Pancho and Lefty
43. Cumberlin L