Archive for Wednesday, December 7, 2005

Like wildfire

Cross Canadian Ragweed builds momentum from the roots up

December 7, 2005


— It's late morning and the guys from Cross Canadian Ragweed are beat.

Cody Canada drifts into the coffee shop a few minutes late and plops down beside bandmates Grady Cross and Jeremy Plato. His clothes are rumpled, his voice haggard.

"I was out back trying to catch some sleep," he apologizes, motioning toward their manager's SUV outside.

Sleep is a luxury for this Oklahoma-based foursome, which also includes drummer Randy Ragsdale. Through constant touring, they've built a strong word-of-mouth following that's unusual in country music.

Their new album, "Garage," debuted last month at No. 6 on Billboard's country albums chart despite scant radio airplay.

Tagged alt-country, CCR's heavy guitar-drenched sound is more Tom Petty and ZZ Top than Hank Williams or George Jones.

Canada, who sings and writes most of the songs, says "Garage," their seventh album in 10 years and third for the Universal South label, is a fitting title.

Cross Canadian Ragweed lead singer Cody Canada, center, leads fellow band members Jeremy Plato, left, and Grady Cross, right, during the band's stop at the Nokia Theatre in New York's Times Square.

Cross Canadian Ragweed lead singer Cody Canada, center, leads fellow band members Jeremy Plato, left, and Grady Cross, right, during the band's stop at the Nokia Theatre in New York's Times Square.

"This is actually the tightest record we've had, but it's still from the middle of the garage. We started out a garage band, and we'll die a garage band," says Canada, who wears his hair long and sports tattoos on both arms.

The 14 tracks include "Dimebag," a tribute to the late rock musicians "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott and Kurt Cobain. Abbott, former guitarist for the heavy metal band Pantera, was shot to death during a concert last year. Cobain, lead singer and guitarist of the grunge band Nirvana, killed himself in 1994.

There's also a cover of Bo Diddley's "Who Do You Love?" as well as a version of CCR's own harmonica-driven "This Time Around" that recalls Bruce Springsteen.

As country music fans embrace a more rock-influenced sound, CCR isn't as out of place as it would have been five or 10 years ago. Country Music Television plays its videos, and mainstream singers Keith Urban, Dierks Bentley, Lee Ann Womack, Willie Nelson and Gary Allan are supporters.

"I think mainly the people who believe in us have seen us live and know what kind of energy we put out," Plato says.

All four members have known each other since grade school in their hometown of Yukon, Okla.

They formed Cross Canadian Ragweed - a combination then of their last names - in 1994. Early on, they got encouragement and coaching from Ragsdale's father, Johnny Ragsdale, a guitarist who's worked with Texas swing king Bob Wills and Reba McEntire.

"He made us practice every night of the week in his living room - even Super Bowl Sunday," Cross recalled.

They'd play Wills and Merle Haggard covers alongside Ted Nugent and Lynyrd Skynyrd tunes.

Ragsdale's father "never set a division line between different styles of music," Plato recalls. "He sort of thought the same way we do as far as making music."

Once the band got its chops it moved to the college town of Stillwater, Okla., where it became immersed in the thriving roots music scene.

Singer-songwriter Mike McClure, in particular, was a big influence, co-writing songs with Canada and producing CCR's last four albums.

"He's the guy I idolized growing up," Canada says. "He was the closest thing I knew to Steve Earle," a fabled alt-country singer-songwriter.

Today, the band plays nearly 250 shows a year and has a huge following in Texas and Oklahoma. This summer, they broke Willie Nelson's attendance record at Lone Star Park near Dallas with a crowd of about 25,000.

Canada says they've always prided themselves on being a good live band.

"Live is it for us," he says. "The road is our home. It sounds cheesy, but it's true."

A few hours later, still a bit drowsy, they were on a plane to the next show.


Huckleberry 12 years, 6 months ago

Anybody who has a chance to see Cross Canadian in concert should take it.

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