Album Review – Cody Canada & The Departed “Adventus”

Well this was not what I was expecting.

Cody Canada’s last band Cross Canadian Ragweed, a long-time staple of the Texas/Oklahoma “Red Dirt” world, always felt equal parts country and rock. That mixture is what defined their sound and set them apart from the crowd of American music. Let’s not bog down in the discussions on “What is country?” and “What is rock?” What was cool about Cross Canadian Ragweed was their ability to rise above such discussions by just being good.

Over the years they fell out of favor with some fans, and some of that probably can be traced back to a shift to the more rock side of things in their sound. But when Ragweed went under there was still plenty of consternation because they played a vital role in what made Red Dirt such a virile scene.

It’s probably not fair to go back and compare Adventus to Ragweed material, because this is a completely different band. And by the way, props to Cody Canada from not putting his name on the front cover, and purposely going out of his way to make sure the spotlight for this band is shared by all the members, including the other singer, songwriter, and lead guitar player, Seth James.

But even when comparing Adventus to the first Departed album This Is Indian Land, this album symbolizes a dramatic, wholesale shift to the rock world. In fact if there’s any other genres mixed in here, they would be blues, and especially funk. Adventus is much more Red Hot Chili Peppers than it is Red Dirt. At least in sonic style. I guess by definition, since Cody Canada is involved, it is still Red Dirt regardless of what it sounds like.

None of this means that Adventus is bad by any stretch. This project must be liberating for Cody Canada. He leaves all expectations left over from the Cross Canadian Ragweed days behind and just does what he wants to do. And what he wants to do is to play full tilt, soulful rock music with the very surprising and adept Seth James helping him lead, write, and sing.

My biggest concern is not what to call this music, but that by going in this direction, Cody Canada, Seth James, and The Departed are making themselves a small fish in a big sea. With the more conventional Red Dirt sound, they enjoyed immeasurable grass roots support. Much of that support may still be there, but there is a reason people say rock is dead. Many elements of rock will forever be timeless. Others have become outmoded, including some found on Adventus that just come across as cliche to the 2012 ear. This is the reason for the rise of “indie” rock and roots rock these days, to evolve rock away from sounds that have become tired and overplayed over the years.

I positively loved The Departed’s first record This Is Indian Land and still do. The point of that album was to showcase Oklahoma songwriters, and where the Departed shined was by not stepping on the toes of these great compositions, but ushering them to the modern ear with amazing taste and care. With Adventus, it’s sometimes hard to hear the songwriting through the blazing guitar solos and quivering organ chords. The picture on the cover evokes thoughts of military mite, almost German stoicism and power, but its origin is actually domestic. It is a Ft. Worth police officer who put bullets in his ears while pulling duty at a Led Zepplin concert during their heyday. This is the perfect depiction for this album. Adventus is loud, balls out, full tilt rock and roll music; energetic and well-crafted.

Adventus is also a coming out party for co-songwriter and frontman Seth James. The man has a very soulful voice, and matches Canada line for line, lick for lick on this album; the two complimenting and challenging each other, resulting in a hospitable creative environment. I had to check the liner notes three times to make sure it was Seth James singing the last song “Sweet Lord” and not William Elliott Whitmore. The performances by The Departed are impressive and flawless. You get the feeling from this album that they put on one hell of a live show. They capture that energy.

There are many that will follow wherever Cody Canada’s bushy black eyebrows take them. Others will be left behind by Adventus, especially the folks with country leanings. Still others will use this album as an avenue to discover all the previous works of Cody Canada and Seth James that would otherwise be unreachable if it was steeped in what they were known for doing in the past.

In the end, music is music, and it either speaks to you or it doesn’t. Adventus may not be what you were anticipating, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t a good time.

1 1/2 of 2 guns up.

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