Thursday, September 30, 2010

Ragweed Thursday -- Take 2!

Welcome to the first chapter in our new weekly series celebrating the great Texas/Oklahoma band Cross Canadian Ragweed. There are many of you out there whom I know have heard of this excellent, rockin' alt-country/Americana band. The goal of this weekly series is to celebrate the accomplishments of this band and, hopefully, introduce those of you who are not familiar with Ragweed's music to a wonderful body of work. This weekly series is leading up to the bands' final show at Joe's Bar in Chicago, Illinois on October 22. We were supposed to start last week but due to technical difficulties, that didn't happen.

Born in 1994 in Yukon, Oklahoma, lead singer Cody Canada and fellow musicians Grady Cross, Randy Ragsdale and Jeremy Plato later moved to the bustling music scene of Stillwater, Oklahoma. Thanks to their relentless touring, scorching live sets and stellar material in the mid to late-1990's, the band developed a solid following amongst the college crowd. They released three albums on their own independent record label, all of which sold quite well. Their success was significant enough to garner attention from a new major record label that was opening up in Nashville, Universal South Records.

The release of their self-titled debut album in 2002 on Universal South sold moderately well, considering that there were no real radio hits to come off the album. It wasn't until their 2004 album entitled "Soul Gravy" that the country began to take notice of this unique band. Truly at the time, there was no other band out there that sounded anything like Ragweed. I can remember sitting at home one weekend afternoon and having Country Music Television (CMT) on and hearing them talk about this new band releasing a new video with Lee Ann Womack. This was my first introduction to Cross Canadian Ragweed. And man, what an introduction. I instantly had a good feeling about these guys, like they could be the next big thing, exactly what country music needed at the time.

The single “Sick and Tired”, featuring the aforementioned Lee Ann Womack on harmony vocals, was the first single to chart reasonably well for Cross Canadian Ragweed. Surprisingly though, it didn’t become a top 40 hit, peaking at #46. The next single, "Alabama", would meet the same fate. To me, this didn't make sense. The songs were strong, perhaps in more ways than one. The writing was fantastic, the guitars stellar, but perhaps the subject matter was a little too much for the consultants at country radio. They appear to shy away from touchy subject material like prostitution and substance abuse, which is the subject matter of "Sick and Tired." Still though, the album was their best selling album to date, debuting at #4 on the Billboard Country Albums Chart.

If I've ever had a beef with country radio, this was a perfect example. A great song performed by excellent artists. An album that's a best seller, which means the people are buying the records, which in turn means they want to hear the music. Country radio doesn't play the said artists music because apparently some consultant said the material is a touch subject and people don't want to hear it. Yet the people are buying the records by the boatload. It made no sense to me then, it makes no sense to me now. Cross Canadian Ragweed isn't the first group to be caught up in this mix and they won't be the last, but that's a column for another day.

The "Soul Gravy" album is a great introduction to this group. When I talk about touchy subject matter, "Sick and Tired" isn't the only track that moves over some shady ground. "Cold Hearted Woman" is a heavy, rockin' song that involves sex, lies and homicide ... all three long-standing topics in the country music/alt-country/Americana genres. True love and dedication appear on this album with the aforementioned "Alabama", and for fans of the Red Dirt/Texas music scene, the guys perform a tune written by the great Ray Wylie Hubbard.

The album is available at your local record store, or pick it up on or from the bands' web site. We'll move on to the next album and a little further up the timeline next week as we move through our Ragweed Thursday series. Stay tuned!

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