Longtime fans of Cross Canadian Ragweed will be enthusiastic: The band’s mastermind Cody Canada still holds the reins of his follow-up band The Departed and comes back with an eleven-song album. HippieLovePunk marks a return to a compact four-piece format and change in philosophy – both clearly audible on the band’s brand new, third album. However, this “back to the future” concept is not a simple revival of what used to bring him high charts positions, millions of sales and coast to coast success. Instead it’s a scorcher of a reboot for The Departed, chock full of the ingredients that made red dirt music an integral part of the American roots’n’roll catalog. Cody Canada is one of the guiding lights of this genre from the American southwest that has gained such widespread international recognition in the last decade. And his new album HippieLovePunk is certainly another milestone of the genre and proof of its ongoing vitality and relevance.
Like no other band Cross Canadian Ragweed exemplified the sound and attitude of the red dirt scene from Oklahoma to Texas. Their (red) dirty mix of country, Southern rock, singer-songwriter, heartland rock, boogie and guitar rock appeared on ten albums between 1998 and 2009 that became more and more successful – top ten positions in the Billboard charts included and over one million sold copies. They consistently sold out shows from San Francisco to NYC, New Orleans to Chicago and achieved near-legendary status on the Stillwater, OK. and Austin, TX. scenes. Up until bandleader Cody Canada pulled the plug on the band in 2010 – everything had just become too big and too much to handle. It didn’t take long before he rose from the ashes, however, with The Departed. Their 2011 debut on Blue Rose Records This Is Indian Land was a colossal tribute to the music of their icons from Oklahoma before the follow-up Adventus was a pretty drastic move away from red dirt, Texas rock, roots and Americana. This was rock hard electric rock’n’roll, a kind of Southern hard rock, played brilliantly but perhaps at times lacking in soul? Not all the old Ragweed fans were able to agree on this album. Moreover, Cody Canada was not the band’s sole focal point anymore. In Seth James, a strong stage and musical presence, he accepted an equal partner, guitar wiz, singer & songwriter in his band. Behind them, drummer Chris Doege and bassist Jeremy Plato provided a tight rhythmic bed while Steve Littleton provided organ, Fender Rhodes, clavinet and piano. Most of the songs on Adventus were composed by Cody Canada, Seth James or the both of them.
In the fall of 2013 Seth James departed The Departed amicably and Cody Canada took the reins once again as sole singer, songwriter and lead guitarist. But it’s mostly the rootsier, warmer musical sound of HippieLovePunk that lets critics and fans rejoice.
The opener „Comin’ To Me“ is a sign of things to come and a yardstick – first-class Southern boogie with a rock’n’roll beat. It is followed by the first single release “Inbetweener”, a juicy riff-rocker. “Easy” is a strong Texas country rock ballad – with emphasis on “rock”: A driving acoustic guitar, organ swells, Jeremy Plato’s well-known excellent harmony vocals, a Canada solo on baritone guitar and some e-piano fills. Power rocker “Revolution” with its hard hitting garage beat and extremely hooky riff steps on the gas again. ‘Back Closer’ is a compact team effort in Memphis soul rock while ‘Got It’ with its simmering guitars, pulsing rhythm and organ swells builds great tension that finally dissipates in an unresolved jam finish. And how to describe “Great Big Nothin”? Red dirt punk rock, Southern hard rock, garage speed rock? And it’s followed by the greatest possible contrast of a song: “Maker”, a singer-songwriter midtempo masterpiece with exquisite acoustic fingerpicking, co-written by Kevin Welch. ‘Stay’ combines Southern R&B in classic Memphis-to-Macon sound with twin guitars, rolling boogie piano, and an Allman Brothers vibe. ‘Boss Of Me’ is an impressive driving rocker while album closer “All Nighter” is a folk-flavored country waltz, Luckenbach-style with accordion, fiddle and friends from the entire Braun family, Willy & Cody of Reckless Kelly, Micky & Gary of the Motorcars and their father Muzzie Braun. And then there’s a bonus track surprise, a fine acoustic folk number. This mix of the new Departed is a great success!