Cicerone is the moniker for Ashton Whitt’s personal musical escapades. A veteran talent who has punched worthy time in hard rocking bands like The Darts and Bad Milk (among many, many others), Ashton’s foray into songwriting with Cicerone is a more cerebral journey.

On Caterpillar Diesel he’s in control of a strong slate of collaborators — a mix of some of the best known and most unheralded talent around — and he uses their array of strengths to create a detailed, vivid, textured world for his songs to live in.

It’s quite a departure, if you’ve come to expect a slew of grinding guitars and coursing, thick bass. While there are moments where the riff mentality rears its head, the album is a relaxed and paced trek that crosses boundaries between anthemic hooks and backbeat twang.

It’s got a massive classic rock feel, obviously imprinted from dad rock records. But it doesn’t settle in simply one place — it manages to shuffle and shift into different versions of laid back charm. It’s the ultimate car album, built for settling in and singing along.

One thing that really stands out is Whitt’s eagerness to craft a unique experience for every song. Some are reliant on double tracked harmonies. Others swim in a sea of reverb. Others on discordant bridges. It’s obvious that an immense amount of care went into the character of the album — one produced primarily by Whitt himself, with some helping hands along the way.

It’s a lovely little jaunt that showcases real artistry, talent, and attention to detail. One of the best albums I’ve heard all year, Cicerone’s Caterpillar Diesel comes with all fixings that we expect from those that truly have a leg up; meaningful songwriting, sonic smarts, and a plethora of memorable moments. It’s a welcome detour down unexplored territory, but one where the roads and scenery feel just familiar enough to be of comfort.

Cicerone are launching the new album Saturday Night at The Fat Cat, with special guest Van Buren Boys.