(Apex Nashville/Underground Sound)
Oklahoma has long been a western-edge feeder system for country music. Woody Guthrie is a native son. Bob Wills established his career there. Nashville's ascendence during the past two decades was led by some of Oklahoma's own such as Garth Brooks, Reba McEntire, Toby Keith, and Vince Gill. There is little doubt that there is something unique about Oklahoma and its ability to spawn musicians that appeal to the country music audience.
Beyond country, Oklahoma has also been the birthplace of some important rock and rollers, most notably the Oklahoma-dusted Southern Rock sounds of Shelter Records led by Leon Russell and JJ Cale. Folks in Oklahoma don't seem to think in terms of genres unless its just good music vs bad. They tend to insist on the good.
By Okie standards, the now defunct Cross Canadian Ragweed from Oklahoma were an underrated band by the Nashville establishment. They were skilled live performers who put a value on strong songwriting. They were no frills in an era when country radio couldn't quite appreciate them as they should have. Thankfully, CCR's lead singer Cody Canada has now formed a new band, The Departed, and he looks determined to finish what he started on This Is Indian Land.
From before his time in Cross Canadian Ragweed, Canada found his home in Stillwater as part of that town's Red Dirt Music scene. These Stillwater musicians like to rock, and they liked to write great songs. Taken together, they made their own brand of music. As part of Cross Canadian Ragweed, Cody Canada emerged as part of a new era of the Red Dirt scene. Canada explains his deep personal connection:
[Stillwater] was like the greatest place on earth. I met Tom Skinner, Scott Evans, Bob Childers, Jimmy LaFave, the Red Dirt Rangers and they were all playing this really, really good music. It was kind of in that same vibe as the Allman Brothers and The Band. But what came out of it was really diverse. There were more country acts like Jason Boland. The All American Rejects were the rock guys. Then you had the whole Red Dirt hippie thing…I didn’t even know what Red Dirt was until somebody told me. I got turned on to it all and it’s stayed with me ever since.
This Is Indian Land fittingly pays tribute to the songwriters and the sounds of Red Dirt Music, both those who inspired it and those who created it. Canada has done a fantastic job of putting The Departed together and assembling the songs for this album. Stillwater mainstays such as Tom Skinner, Randy Crouch, Greg Jacobs, Randy Pease, and the late Bob Childers are well represented here providing the Red Dirt foundation necessary to make this a proper tribute.
Canada's most inspired idea was to also include songs from Leon Russell, JJ Cale, and Kevin Welch. Russell and Cale provide the classic and Southern rock elements while Welch brings Nashville. Since leaving Oklahoma as a teenager decades ago, Welch has written songs for mainstream artists and recorded several albums of his own. By bringing this entire mix of writers together, Canada shows how everything is intertwined.
The Departed cannot be forgotten either. This band knows how to rock and how to fall into a fine Oklahoma shuffle. Since Red Dirt mixes in rock, blues, folk, and country, the music demands versatility. Canada brought bassist Jeremy Plato with him from CCR and added the fine talents of guitarist Seth James, keyboardist Steve Littleton, and drummer Dave Bowen. These guys deliver. Canada describes how The Departed skill and newness as a group add to the excitement:
[Cross Canadian Ragweed] were playing so many shows we could just get up there and do the tunes, right? Well now it’s a new band playing new songs so we’ve got to learn everything, get our game together and practice. It’s a whole lot of fun. I can’t sleep at night. It keeps me awake, not from worry but from excitement. We’re just ready to tear it up!
Cody Canada has always understood that it's important to wave the flag of where you're from. In Canada's case it is the Red Dirt music of Oklahoma. He might be based in Austin now, but the Red Dirt is still there. This Is Indian Land serves as an Oklahoma musical crossroads tying the rock of Leon Russell and JJ Cale to the Nashville writing of Kevin Welch to the Red Dirt originators, all of whom deserve wider recognition.
The album also gives Canada a promising direction with a strong new band. Red Dirt Music keep rolling on...
- Jim Markel
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