AMERICUS -- Now that the five members of soon-to-be-Nashville-based -- by way of Texas -- modern bluegrass masters Cadillac Sky have developed a closer walk with God, the band's members are quick to give Him praise for their growing success.
But from the beginning, C-Sky's story is one fraught with elements that point to nothing if not divine intervention.
There was the time that country/bluegrass pioneer Ricky Skaggs -- one of Cadillac Sky's major influences and heroes -- heard their work and signed them on to his Skaggs Family Records label. And then there was the time band guitarist David Mayfield's sister, who was playing in a group opening for the Black Keys, arranged for her brother to perform with her band.
Mayfield ended up meeting and talking with Keys mastermind Dan Auerbach, and when they hit it off, Mayfield managed to pass along a copy of the C-Sky EP "Weary Angel." Impressed, Auerbach signed on to produce the band's third proper album, "Letters in the Deep," which is due for release in June.
Cadillac Sky, who've carved out a niche for themselves in a musical genre that's not exactly known for innovation, even survived a yearlong break-up to reach this point in their career, so there's no question someone's looking out for them.
"When I say we give God all the glory, I'm not just whitewashing this for an audience," lead singer/mandolin player Bryan Simpson said in a phone interview. "The impact of His blessings is not lost on us.
"When we started this band back in 2002, we weren't ready to go to the places that we were looking to go. We've all gone through things since -- there have been addictions, divorces, any kind of bad thing you can name -- but God's taken us through it."
Cadillac Sky -- Simpson, Mayfield, banjo player Matt Menefee, fiddler Ross Holmes and percussionist Andy "Panda" Moritz -- will bring their unique blend of traditional bluegrass, country, folk and Americana to Americus' historic Rylander Theater Friday night for an 8 p.m. show that promises to be like nothing music fans in the region have ever seen.
"We love going into new places and winning over fans, but we also know there are going to be people who don't get what we do," Simpson said. "But even if you don't like what we're playing, I guarantee you that we will at least entertain you."
After a shaky start in the music business, the young members of Cadillac Sky floundered about, "roaming the desert" in Texas while trying to find their place in the industry. They shared a love for music and a genuine desire to play together, but that did not generate a great deal of excitement outside their inner circle.
"We lost our way a little bit, lost what momentum we'd built, and ended up breaking up for about a year," Simpson said.
The members of the band played with other musicians and, perhaps more importantly, matured during their period of separation. But the bond they'd developed drew them back together for another go.
"One of the things we'd learned is that a love for music is not enough," Simpson said. "There's a level of professionalism that's necessary."
Once they'd reunited, the members of C-Sky still weren't sure exactly what they wanted to do with their talent. So they came up with a plan of attack: They made an album.
Not long after, Skaggs was given a copy of the record and he liked what he heard. He signed the band to his label and released "Blind Man Walking," "pretty much as it was."
"We ended up changing one song -- added a twin fiddle part -- and it actually did pretty well for us," Simpson said. "The fact that Ricky Skaggs liked our music the way we did it was a big thing for us."
Moritz and "fifth Beatle" Mayfield joined Cadillac Sky to complete the sound that the other three band members had been looking for, and the quintet decided to part ways with the Skaggs label after releasing a second disc, "Gravity's Our Enemy."
The independently-produced "Weary Angel" EP caught Auerbach's attention, and soon C-Sky's members found themselves in Akron, Ohio, at the Black Keys leader's private studio. They found working with the multi-talented Auerbach a freeing experience.
"With the technology available in the music industry now, you can make a record perfect," Simpson said. "But that's not what bluegrass music has ever been about. The rawness was missing.
"Dan encouraged us to just be us with our music. He had the most laid-back approach, and the only time he really was forceful during recording was when he told us not to overanalyze, to let the songs be what they were going to be."
Simpson points to the coda of "Break My Heart Again," one of the new album's stronger tracks, as a perfect example of Auerbach's influence.
"At the end of the song, we figured he was going to fade it, so we just kept playing," the C-Sky singer said. "It turned into a jam that was not intended, and just created its own sort of energy. We'd tried in rehearsals to find a way to end the song, but nothing ever worked.
"Later I asked Dan if he'd cut that part out, and he said that that little jam was really the essence of our music. And when I listened to it, I saw that he was right. He left it just the way we played it."
Now, the band is anxiously awaiting "Letters in the Deep's" release.
"This record moves us; we're all comfortable with it," Simpson said. "The other records we did were fine, but if someone played them, I couldn't stay in the room. I enjoy listening to this record. It's us not trying to trick anybody, just being who we are."
Friday's Rylander show kicks off at 8 p.m. Tickets, which are $15, are available at the theater's box office. Information is available online at www.rylander.org or by calling (229) 931-0001.