Saturday, June 25, 2011

Okie "red dirt" music focus of Departed's Wormy Dog gig by Andrew W Griffin, Red Dirt Reporter, Editor.

Okie "red dirt" music focus of Departed's Wormy Dog gig

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Andrew W. Griffin
Cody Canada performs some acoustic songs during his gig Thursday night at the Wormy Dog Saloon.
By Andrew W. Griffin
Red Dirt Report, editor
Posted: June 24, 2011

OKLAHOMA CITY – Just as Cody Canada finished singing Gregory Jacobs’s hard luck Dust Bowl ballad “A Little Rain Will Do,” the skies over Oklahoma City lit up with lightning and the rain fell in buckets. If that isn’t an Oklahoma sort of scene, I don’t know what is. Kind of reminds me of the time Canada’s previous band, Cross Canadian Ragweed, was playing out in dust-blown Foss, Okla. and the wind was blowing around that grit and dirt. Just as Canada and the boys took the stage, Canada said: “You taste that grit in your mouth? That’s red dirt. Well, here’s what it sounds like …” It was very cool and strangely serendipitous, like a lot of shows involving Yukon’s Cody Canada.
But that was a few years back. Ragweed has broken up – amicably, of course – and Canada, along with affable bassist Jeremy Plato, are charting new waters and having new adventures with their band The Departed.
And on this night, at the good ol’ Wormy Dog, Cody Canada and The Departed were in town, holding an album release party for their brand new disc – This Is Indian Land – a tribute to the Sooner State and their talented songwriters.
I know a lot of people were bummed to hear Ragweed was calling it quits. But then again I think a lot of people sensed it was coming. Reviewing Ragweed’s 2009 album Happiness and All the Other Things here at Red Dirt Report, we were somewhat underwhelmed by the album, particularly in light of the far superior Mission California, which came out two years before.
The magic wasn’t gone but something was missing. I suspect the band saw an opportunity to gracefully call it a day. Canada, of course, has that singer-songwriter itch and would press on. With the trustworthy Plato on board, a singer in his own right, and some new guys, including Texas roots-rocker Seth James. It was last summer, while reviewing James’s ’09 release, That Kind of Man, that we noted that Canada and James were doing some acoustic gigs that summer. I suspect that led to the formation of what ultimately became The Departed.
And with Seth James, a Wichita Falls, Texas native, we were thoroughly impressed with his sounds that embraces a combination of blues, rock, country and folk. It’s definitely a Texas/Red Dirt-friendly sound and at last night’s Wormy Dog show, James’s stage presence and bluesy guitar licks really sweetened things up. His vocal and guitar stylings on the Littleton original “Any Other Way,” was dynamic. The same could be said of his soulful rendition of a song called “Better Get Right.”
And we shouldn’t forget the “new” guys – talented keyboard player Steve Littleton, formerly of Austin’s Live Oak Decline, and solid drummer Dave Bowen, a big fella inspired at a young age by “Animal” of The Muppets’ “Electric Mayhem” and a pair of drumsticks left at his house by Carmine Appice of Vanilla Fudge. That’s a majorly cool early-life influence for a drummer-to-be.
Both musicians round out The Departed in a seriously professional way. Watching Tulsa native Littleton in his “I *heart* Tulsa” T-shirt and a smile on his face, it was clear that he was having a ball.
And Canada, looking like Al Pacino in Serpico, was sporting a “This Machine Kills Fascists” Woody Guthrie T-shirt. He bragged about the previous night’s gig at Cain’s and how they “drank everything wet and smoked everything dry.”
And while the crowd was relatively small this Thursday night, the numbers grew over the course of the evening. A Wormy Dog staffer said while the turnout was smaller than say for a Cross Canadian Ragweed show, “there’s a lot of other things going on” in Bricktown, apparently.
Their loss. The Departed were really on this particular night. And we would get a heapin’ helpin’ of Red Dirt classics – Oklahoma-centric songs from This Is Indian Land, a record that proves to be one of the best albums of 2011.
Launching into the funky “True Love Never Dies,” with the 70’s keyboard sounds was a treat while Plato ably handled the vocals on Mike Shannon’s “Long Way to Nowhere,” a song that embraces more of a “country” sound when compared with the rockier or folkier material presented.
Not to be confused with Better Than Ezra’s “Rosealia,” “The Ballad of Rosalie” is actually a cover of Red Dirt artist Randy Pease’s song from his 1998 debut Call Me Ishmael. Tonight, the crowd responded positively to what Canada called “an old song.”
Canada and The Departed boys have a soft spot for the work of Bristow native Tom Skinner, recording and performing the pop-edged “Skyline Radio” (which a guy next to me said he didn’t like) and Leon Russell’s “Home Sweet Oklahoma.” A lot of the songs here appeared on Skinner’s Farmboy album. And regarding the crowd, just as “Skyline Radio” was beginning to smoke, Canada looked out and asked “Y’all alive?” Not surprising. The crowd was, well, polite, when the new songs were played. But when ol’ Randy Ragsdale, Canada and Plato’s former partner in “time” took over Bowen’s drum stool and kicked off the 2005 CCR track “Dimebag,” the crowd got excited and loud.
The Bob Childers song “Starin’ Down the Sun” featured dueling electric guitars between Canada and James and the results were inspiring to this guitar junkie.
Interestingly, the best and most fascinating song of the set was “Face on Mars,” a song with a decidedly spooky vibe and a Randy Crouch original. Littleton’s prog-rock synth textures certainly added to the song’s otherworldly atmosphere, as did the voice-distorting mic Canada sang into.
Hearing these songs reminds you that Oklahoma has some incredibly talented folks. The songwriters whose songs were featured tonight in the Departed’s set certainly showcased that fact.
Copyright 2011 West Marie Media
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Andrew W. Griffin
Seth James performs with The Departed at the Wormy Dog Saloon in Oklahoma City.

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