"John Jackson, who produced the record, is in a band called The Jayhawks," Caudle says "He came and saw me in New York one night and came up and introduced himself. One thing led to another: I'm sending demos over to him and we're talking about where I want to record the next record. He'd produced a couple of Ray Davies records I really liked and the last couple of Jayhawks records, as well. So we kind of went back and forth on a couple of studios, and it ended up that he'd worked at Cash Cabin with John Carter on a couple of things. A Loretta Lynn record and maybe one of the newer Willie records was done there, as well.
"He was familiar with them, so he called John Carter and we set it all up," Caudle adds. "It just felt right when he said, 'Do you want to do it at Cash Cabin?'"
The Cash Cabin served as an ideal incubation unit for songs indebted to not just Johnny Cash but also Caudle's home state heroes (Doc Watson and Elizabeth Cotten) and the rock building blocks of Americana (The Rolling Stones and The Clash).
Caudle cut his new album with a room full of Grammy-winning musicians: Mickey Raphael on harmonica (Willie Nelson), Dennis Crouch on bass (Elton John, Leon Russell), Fred Eltringham on drums (Willie Nelson, Sheryl Crow), Russ Pahl on pedal steel (Kacey Musgraves, Dan Auerbach), Laur Joamets on guitar (Sturgill Simpson, Drivin N Cryin) and, on keyboards, Pat Sansone (Wilco) and Rhett Huffman (American Aquarium).
"We did things real old school," Caudle says. "We didn't use headphones, and we all played in the room live together. I sang everything live with the band. It felt like how people used to make records."
The Cash Cabin is chock full of vintage equipment, some of which tells its own story about folk and country music history.
"One really cool thing I like about it is they had Cowboy Jack (Clement), he designed the reverb chamber there," Caudle adds. "The plate that they use for the reverb is pretty long. It's like 12 feet, and it came from the Grand Ole Opry in the '70's."
In-studio guests beyond Caudle's all-star studio band included gifted peers Courtney Marie Andrews, John Paul White and Elizabeth Cook. And yes, John Carter Cash, who lives on the grounds, fished and wrote a song with Caudle during the creation of Better Hurry Up.
Yet the most special moment for Caudle came when the song "Better Hurry Up" proved his family circle's love for country music and gospel hymns to be unbroken.
"My parents did drive over from North Carolina, and they ended up singing on the title track with me," Caudle adds. "They didn't know they were going to do that. They were sitting in the studio, and we invited them out. I heard them both singing in church while growing up, so I knew they could handle it."
Better Hurry Up follows the critical success of 2016's Carolina Ghost and 2018's Crushed Coins.