ROUTES & BRANCHES
featuring the very best of americana, alt.country and roots music
July 1, 2018
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust
Last week we stole a quick glance backwards at some of our favorite music from the first half of the year. It's only fair that this Episode is devoted to some of the stuff that may define the next six months.
When I'm recording our ROUTES-cast I'm surrounded by thousands of CDs. These days I work almost exclusively with mp3s, but the time I served in radio and retail served me well in building an encyclopedic roots music library. I have, for instance, nearly every CD released by Cody Canada's various projects, from Cross Canadian Ragweed to his solo record and his project with Mike McClure and his most recent stuff with The Departed. Looking at it all, you might think I've been a longtime fan. While I've made a point of representing every record on R&B, my appreciation has been superficial. This isn't to say that my short attention span has been merited. It's just a fact.
Canada began his reign with the Departed in 2011, releasing a quality collection of Oklahoma-born music called This is Indian Land. It served to remind us where so much of his music has found inspiration, in the red dirt stronghold from the Panhandle State to Texas. The subsequent Adventus and 2015's HippieLovePunk boasted a bigger, more eclectic and topical sound than CCR, while maintaining a firm grasp on the tuneful appeal that has always defined Cody Canada's work.
And then there were three. Again. Or rather, there was 3. It's the name of Cody Canada's new CD, but also his third original record with The Departed (if you don't count bassist Jeremy Plato's sadly overlooked 2016 In Retrospect). And The Departed have been honed to a lean trio, featuring Canada, his longtime CCR bassist Plato and drummer Eric Hansen. It would seem that after spending several years working to distance himself from Cross Canadian Ragweed, Cody Canada has realized that 3 really is a magic number.
There's a looseness and an easygoing spirit throughout 3 too, harkening back to the earlier days of that other band. There's even a "Song About Nothin'", a sweet and breezy piece Canada constructed as an antidote to writer's block: The record player, it's uneven / But not enough to make me drive to town. No hearts are breaking, the weather's okay, nothing to see here. Nevertheless, it's one of a handful of tracks that speaks to his facility with even the simplest of words and music.
With its chiming guitar, "Lipstick" portrays a queen of the streets, a recognition that our fascination with the world's oldest profession ain't never gonna change. Canada's guitar tears into a rocking solo to close the track. The sound of six strings singing lends the record much of its appeal, while his vocal delivery is one of the most recognizable in the business. Behind producer and longtime collaborator Mike McClure, 3 is an immediately comfortable listen, songs that satisfy our basic needs for simple sounds well delivered.
One of the CD's most worthy tracks features The Departed's take on McClure's own "Daughter of the Devil", lending the classic red dirt country rocker a swampy groove. Other covers include Will Kimbrough and Tommy Womack's "Betty Was Black (& Willie Was White)" and a low-key run through Merle Haggard's classic "Footlights". That pared-back simplicity also serves the banjo-centric "Blackbird" and the folky acoustic "One of These Days (Skinner)". Canada delivers these songs with an unforced ease, comfortable not to aim for the rafters in an attempt to prove himself.
Because the fact is, even as a trio The Departed are not Cross Canadian Ragweed. Even as crowds call out for the beloved band's well-worn hits, "Unglued" and the bluesy swagger of "Lost Rabbit" are as strong as anything Canada's released with his current band, achieving that melodic sweet spot while never resorting to self parody.
- Band of Heathens, "America the Beautiful" Message From the People Revisited (BoH, 18) D
- Caleb Caudle, "Mr President (Have Pity on the Working Man)" single (Caudle, 18) D
- Andrew Combs, "Reptilia" 5 Covers & a Song (New West, 18)
- Will Hoge, "Thoughts & Prayers" My American Dream (Edlo, 18) D
- Ryan Culwell, "Can You Hear Me" Last American (Culwell, 18)
^ Cody Canada & the Departed, "Unglued" Three (Underground Sound, 18)
- Amanda Shires, "Eve's Daughter" To the Sunset (Silver Knife, 18)
- Israel Nash, "Lucky Ones" Lifted (Desert Folklore, 18)
- Blitzen Trapper, "War is Placebo" Furr: 10th Anniversary Deluxe Edition (Sub Pop, 18) D
- Aaron Lee Tasjan, "If Not Now When" Karma for Cheap (New West, 18) D
- Adam Wright, "Dirt Poor" Dust (Carnival, 18) D
- Eric Bachmann, "No Recover" No Recover (Merge, 18) d
- Austin Lucas, "Immortal Americans" Immortal Americans (Cornelius Chapel, 18) d
- Ben Danaher, "My Father's Blood" Still Feel Lucky (Soundly, 18)
- Bermuda Triangle, "Till the End of Days" single (Bermuda Triangle, 18) D
- Glorietta, "Golden Lonesome" Glorietta (Nine Mile, 18) D
- Jason Eady, "Always a Woman" I Travel On (Old Guitar, 18)
- Liz Cooper & the Stampede, "Mountain Man" Window Flowers (Sleepyhead, 18) D
- Ruston Kelly, "Jericho" Dying Star (Rounder, 18) D
- Lucero, "Long Way Home" Among the Ghosts (Liberty + Lament, 18)
- Cody Jinks, "Lifers" Lifers (Rounder, 18)
- Cedric Burnside, "We Made It" Benton County Relic (Single Lock, 18) D
- Marc Ribot, "Srinivas (w/Steve Earle, Tift Merritt)" Songs of Resistance 1942-2018 (Anti, 18) D
- Jayhawks, "Backwards Women" Back Roads & Abandoned Motels (Sony, 18)
- Cordovas, "Frozen Rose" That Santa Fe Channel (ATO, 18)
- Murder by Death, "True Dark" Other Shore (Bloodshot, 18) D
- Lera Lynn, "Wolf Like Me (w/Shovels & Rope)" Plays Well With Others (Single Lock, 18) D
- St Paul & Broken Bones, "Apollo" Young Sick Camillia (Records LLC, 18) D
- Brothers Comatose, "These Ways" Ink Dust & Luck (AntiFragile, 18) D
- Amy Helm, "This Too Shall Light" This Too Shall Light (YepRoc, 18) D