It's official: The Departed has arrived.
With its first album of original material, the Oklahoma-Texas band is firmly rooting its music in a rocky spot in the fertile red dirt soil.
The group — former Cross Canadian Ragweed singer/guitarist Cody Canada, ex-Ragweed bassist Jeremy Plato, Texas singer/guitarist Seth James, Tulsa keyboardist Steve Littleton and new drummer Chris Doege — released Tuesday “Adventus,” a raucous yet soulful collection of 14 new tracks.
“I'm finally starting to see people slowly starting to let go of ... that Ragweed split,” Canada said in an interview over the summer.
“Coming out with this Departed record of all original tunes and what we have to say — you know, there's been a lot going on in our lives in the last couple of years — as usual, it's therapy. I've written about the good times and the bad times, and people are gonna hear it. And hopefully, they'll dig it because it's us ... we've just got different people playing more instruments.”
Although the title is Latin for “arrival,” “Adventus” actually is the second album in the brief existence of The Departed, which formed in 2010 shortly after the breakup of Ragweed, a seminal red dirt outfit planted in Yukon and sprouted in the musical hotbed of Stillwater.
“Well, we don't mess around,” Canada said with a laugh. “Seth led his band for 15 years, and I was with Ragweed for 15 or 16, so we're very accustomed to keeping the ball rolling. And we keep writing. Getting the two of us together and then adding Plato in the mix, Jeremy is a fantastic songwriter. I know that he doesn't get the credit he deserves sometimes; he doesn't give himself the credit. ... And Steve Littleton playing the keys, he's been a songwriter for 20 years. So it's real easy to get a whole bunch of songs before you know it.”
The new band released its initial effort, “This Is Indian Land,” an 18-track salute to the Sooner State songwriters, from Leon Russell and J.J. Cale to the Red Dirt Rangers and Tom Skinner, in June 2011 and made my top 10 albums list of the year.
There are no signs of a sophomore slump with “Adventus,” just a firm statement that the fledgling red dirt band is going to roll with the rock aspect of the distinctly Oklahoma musical subgenre that mixes rock 'n' roll, country, folk, honky tonk, blues and Americana.
“Seth and I talked about doing a record, not necessarily touring it, but just throwing a band together with top-notch players and doing a rock 'n' roll thing that we'd never done before. People do it all the time, you know, and then a couple months after that was when we realized Ragweed was splitting. So that's when we got real serious about it,” said Canada, who grew up in Yukon and Stillwater but now makes his home in New Braunfels, Texas.
“We did ‘Indian Land' ... just to kind of buy a little bit of time and fulfill my promise to my Okie friends that the record label (for Ragweed, Universal South) wouldn't let me do.”
With the new band perpetuating Ragweed's road-warrior ways, the quintet made “Adventus” at Yellow Dog Studios in Austin, Texas, squeezing in the recording sessions between tour dates.
“We were just gonna go home and hang out, but once we started thinking about it, it was like ‘Man, if want to get this thing out in the fall, we need to get in there and get it finished,'” Canada said. “That's a good thing, you know, but you start missing the smell of your house and you miss your kids.”
While some fans may still long for the old Ragweed days, Canada said he hopes they will give The Departed's singular red-dirt rock style a fair shot.
“As to pressure of what people will think, I don't want to be an (expletive) and say I don't care 'cause I really do. But I want people to know that this is what we are. This is me singing and Seth singing and Jeremy singing. Some songs I don't even have a guitar solo because we have Steve Littleton in the band, and there's other songs that have a lot of guitar solos because there's two lead guitar players in the band,” he said.
“What's the really cool thing about it, as soon as we got everything tracked, I wrote another tune and Seth wrote another tune. It's like we instantly started over,” he added.