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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November 13, 2012 @ 10:38 am
I guess I would be considered one of those that would follow Cody regardless of whatever band he’s in so I guess I’m biased, which we all are when it comes to our favorite bands. That being said, I guess I see where you’re coming from saying that the music isn’t as “red dirt” sounding as the earlier Ragweed stuff and when you listen to the last couple albums they made it seemed to me like the sound had been changing considerably. There has been a sort of evolution of their music through the years and I think that is a big reason people have followed this band through the transition from Ragweed to the Departed cover album to the new stuff. Black Horse Mary is the song on this album that really sticks out to me. I’ve seen this band probably 5 times now since they picked up and started touring and the first time I heard that song I thought it might be something that Cody had written 5 or 6 years ago. You’re right, this isn’t country; it’s rock, blues, funky soul music with very little country sound and it’s also what makes this band and the members it’s comprised of very unique. Their music won’t be played on rock stations and obviously it wouldn’t get any attention on country radio. Seth James is an unbelievable talent and it’s great watching two great performers share lead and work together when obviously either could move on without the other. And they do have a much heavier sounding live show than Ragweed ever did, but it’s still just great, raw sounding music.
November 13, 2012 @ 11:15 am
” Their music won”™t be played on rock stations and obviously it wouldn”™t get any attention on country radio.”
See, this is my concern, that they’ll be gobbled up by the “rock” world where they are just another new band, and there not enough twang here to tickle the interests of the country world. Regardless, The Departed should make the music they want to make. Damn the consequences. That that’s what I think they did with “Adventus”.
November 13, 2012 @ 10:55 am
Nice writeup. It’s good to see some of the Red Dirt guys expanding their sound, stretching their wings and their boundaries as they mature. Mike McClure’s another example. Red Dirt’s problem is that it widely devolved into a bunch of acts copying the formulas of The Great Divide, Ragweed, and others while constantly decrying Music Row for being formulaic. The irony was largely lost on the Ballcap Nation, particularly in Texas.
Regardless of whether Ragweed fans will equally appreciate what Cody and co. are doing now, it’s a terrific thing for lovers of real music that the Departed are exploring new horizons. Think you did a good job of pointing that out, and wanted to pass along appreciation from my perch in the cheap seats.
November 13, 2012 @ 5:53 pm
^^What he said!^^
November 13, 2012 @ 10:58 am
November 13, 2012 @ 2:14 pm
I fall in the left behind because I have country leanings category. There is no doubt that Ragweed turned me on to a lot of the Red Dirt music I’ve grown to love. I agree with a lot of what you say. To me The Departed is a really good rock band and there are a lot of really good rock bands. I just don’t find anything distinguishing about their sound and I have a hard time separating the old Ragweed I loved with the new band. I’ll give the entire CD a listen, I’ve only heard a couple tracks so far.
Fifth on the Floor
November 13, 2012 @ 3:22 pm
We’ve done two shows with the Departed in the past year. Prior to these shows, I wasn’t very familiar with their music, and certainly not their sound. The night before the first show, I had a few drinks with them at a local dive in Lexington. Some of the nicest cats I’ve met.
Their graciousness continued the night of the show. Wasn’t a diva in the house. You would’ve thought they came to the show as fans, not the headliners. That said, I wasn’t floored by their show. I was well into some libation, and that undoubtedly played a hand, but I didn’t come away from it blown away, by any means.
The second show was about 6 weeks ago. If that was the same sound and show they performed the first go round, then it was my loss. Their show was positively badass. Start to finish, as solid a show as I’ve seen in some time. I don’t own any Cody Canada records, or any Cross Canadian for that matter, but I’m absolutely a fan. Great guys, great rock n roll.
November 13, 2012 @ 5:14 pm
You’re absolutely spot on. The first couple times I saw them they were playing all This Is Indian Land songs and a couple old Ragweed tunes. It was good but it seemed like they were still working on their sound. Saw them again with Shooter in April and again last month with Uncle Lucius and they tore the place down (by the way, that was the second time I’ve seen Uncle Lucius and if anybody hasn’t ever checked them out live you need to whenever given the chance)
While I’m thinking of it, you guys need to make it around central Illinois sometime soon.
Fifth on the Floor
November 13, 2012 @ 5:53 pm
We were actually in Riverton just last week 🙂
Uncle Lucius is the shit. Jonny, their organ player, is a beast. He played a few shows with us years ago before joining Uncle Lucius.
November 13, 2012 @ 7:35 pm
This isn’t altogether surprising, considering CCR has covered George Thorogood and Neil Young. Cody Canada has also indicated that he’s at least somewhat of a fan of bands like Pantera & Iron Maiden. I don’t know if he could pull that kind of music off, but I’d be interested in hearing him try.
November 14, 2012 @ 6:54 am
Yeah, after hearing “Adventus” it was comforting to know that Americana wasn’t the only vague genre’s out there and it led me to tweet “How is Red Dirt not either classic-inspired rock or country rock?” Except for the Red River regional distinction I see no use for this definition.
TX Music Jim
November 14, 2012 @ 11:26 am
Amazing rock and roll period. Loved ragweed. Love the departed totally different deals. to hell with labels can’t wait to watch this band evolve with time.
November 18, 2012 @ 1:04 pm
I will buy it because i am a huge fan of CCR.
But Indian Land was a modest effort at best and I am not expecting a lot from this offering.
Thanks for the review.
November 19, 2012 @ 11:36 am
First off, very good and fair write up. I have to say though that I disagree with them leaving red dirt. I still hear some country in there and besides there is no lack of rock on the red dirt/ texas country scene. They still play Luckenbach and they are still being played on stations like the Ranch. They aren’t going to start being played on rock stations.
The Departed Reviews
November 20, 2012 @ 7:37 am
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