The Black Lillies
About The Black Lillies
Since debuting in 2009, Americana combo the Black Lillies have firmly established their reputation for fusing classic country-rooted sounds with contemporary energy and attitude. Led by singer/songwriter Cruz Contreras, they delivered a trio of independent releases including 2013's breakout Runaway Freeway Blues before teaming up with Nashville's Thirty Tigers, which issued their acclaimed fourth album, 2015's Hard to Please, and its 2018 follow-up, Stranger to Me.
The Black Lillies were formed in Knoxville, Tennessee in 2009 shortly after Contreras left his post with Robinella & the CC Stringband. Joining Contreras in the lineup were guitarist and pedal steel player Tom Pryor (formerly of the Everybodyfields), drummer and percussionist Jamie Cook (also of the Everybodyfields), bassist Robert Richards, and vocalist Trisha Gene Brady. The band, featuring a fresh blend of bluegrass, jazz, rock, country, and blues, with just a touch of Appalachian string band, began recording a debut album in Contreras' home studio (which doubled as his living room) shortly after he parted ways with Robinella, with help from Leah Gardner on backing vocals, Billy Contreras on fiddle, and Taylor Coker on bass. The resulting album, Whiskey Angel, was independently released by the band in the spring of 2009 and quickly garnered positive critical attention, regular play on Americana stations, and a management and booking deal. The Black Lillies began touring steadily in support, and appeared at major music festivals, including Bonnaroo and Pickathon. In 2010, the Black Lillies announced they were at work on their second album, to be financed through a crowd-sourcing campaign; the response from fans was positive, and 100 Miles of Wreckage was released in the spring of 2011, once again to enthusiastic reviews and good sales. The Black Lillies' third album, Runaway Freeway Blues, released in March 2013, was another critical and commercial success; shortly after it was released, it was announced that drummer Jamie Cook was leaving the group, and Bowman Townsend, who had been touring with the group while Cook dealt with family matters, was their new full-time drummer.
After more touring and enthusiastic press, Contreras was writing material for the band's fourth album in early 2015 when he got the news that longtime collaborators Tom Pryor and Robert Richards had decided to leave the band. When the group rolled into the studio to begin recording, the Black Lillies brought along guest musicians Matt Smith on pedal steel guitar, Daniel Donato on six-string guitar, and Bill Reynolds (of Band of Horses) on bass. The album Hard to Please was released in October 2015 by Nashville's Thirty Tigers, and when the Black Lillies returned to the road in support, Contreras, Brady, and Townsend were joined by three new recruits -- guitarist Mike Seal, pedal steel man Jonathan Keeney, and bassist Sam Quinn. Following the departure of Brady, who left the band at the end of 2016, the remaining members began debuting new material as part of a weekly Facebook Live series called "The Sprinter Sessions," which were broadcast on the road from their Dodge Sprinter tour van. Working with producer Jamie Candiloro (R.E.M., Ryan Adams) at Asheville, North Carolina's Echo Mountain studio, they put these new songs to tape resulting in 2018's Stranger to Me album. ~ Steve Leggett & Mark Deming