Coming to Texas from New Mexico, I always knew I was going to be confronted by a world with which I was not entirely in tune. I had been raised in an environment and community that was innately opposed to Texas, or at the very least placed Texas at the butt of their jokes. I have some guesses as to why this might be, but none of them are very good and none of them come close to explaining the strange phenomenon. Let it suffice to say that I had some existing notions about the state that almost kept me from attending school here. A few were founded in some truth, while others are mysteries to me even now, but my deepest-rooted concern revolved around about being inescapably trapped by country music.
That sounds silly to say, of course—in the age of mobile technology and headphones, it is easy to avoid the music you don’t care for. More importantly, to discount and avoid an entire genre of music is ridiculous—especially one with a history as deep and rich as country. I am very grateful to say that my preconceptions about country music were sorely mistaken, and while I could not go so far as to say I am a fan of the genre in its entirety, I have found artists and sub-genres that I both enjoy and recognize immense value. Cody Canada is one of those artists who I believe truly embodies the spirit and power of country music traditions.
Though the name Cross Canadian Ragweed meant little to me before I came to Texas, I am sure that is a very powerful name to Texas natives. And it should be: the group played a prominent role at the forefront of a Red Dirt movement that took Oklahoma, Texas and the country by storm in the 1990s and early 2000s. Cross Canadian Ragweed did a remarkable job of unifying the genres of rock and roll and country music, and of appealing to fans of both genres. When Ragweed broke up in 2010, they left a massive hole in the musical community here in Austin and throughout the country at large.
Thankfully, a musician like Cody Canada could not sit idly by while so much of country music angled down a slick and dangerous road towards vacuous pop music. Just a year after Ragweed broke up, Canada founded a new group: Cody Canada and The Departed. Their three albums earned the group critical acclaim and spots in the Top 20 Charts for US Country and US Indie music alike; more importantly, however, they did so through a fastidious devotion to their own music and the Red Dirt way. Their riffs are sharp, their lyrics deeply relatable, and the music has never strayed away from the genuine and visceral emotion that drives the group. To pigeonhole their music as country is shortsighted and inaccurate: they are what can only be described as truly blue-collar music, born from the traditions that unite rock and roll, blues and outlaw country alike.
For me, it took the willingness to swallow my (misplaced) pride and venture out to a concert in order to challenge my ideas about country music and appreciate the depth and power that resonates from it. I encourage you to do the same, and this Friday at Empire Garage is the ideal place to do so: Cody Canada and The Departed promise a performance that is equal parts celebration and intimate connection, party and power. Don’t miss out.
The Facebook page, where tickets can be bought, is found here.
Photo Credit: Cody Canada and the Departed