From Friday’s Weekend Look section of The Oklahoman. See the full list of Oklahoma songwriters featured on “This Is Indian Land” after the break.
Cody Canada & The Departed dig into musical roots with debut album
The red dirt band, which formed last year after the dissolution of Cross Canadian Ragweed, releases “This Is Indian Land” Tuesday.
Cody Canada & The Departed are digging into their Oklahoma music roots with their debut album.
Formed last year after the disbanding of red dirt stars Cross Canadian Ragweed, the Oklahoma-Texas quintet is releasing Tuesday “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.
“About eight years, Jeremy (Plato) and I have been talking about it. Finally made it happen.” said Canada, who grew up in Yukon and Stillwater and now makes his home in New Braunfels, Texas.“These are the tunes that we wanted people to hear since the get-go. These are the songs that taught us how to do it, and we finally got ‘em nailed down. Jeremy’s singing and I’m singing and we’re sharing the dirt with people.”
After Ragweed announced last year an indefinite hiatus, singer/songwriter/guitarist Canada and singer/bassist Jeremy Plato formed The Departed with Texas guitarist Seth James, Tulsa keyboardist Steve Littleton and Yukon drummer David Bowen. For their first project, their frontman proposed they showcase their Oklahoma music heroes.
In particular, Canada wanted to pay homage to the musical community that gathered at The Farm, a rural homestead outside Stillwater that is recognized as the birthplace of red dirt music. When he moved to Stillwater at age 16, the songwriters he met there nurtured his musical aspirations.
“I met all these people and it really gave me direction. And it really made me figure out who I was and what I wanted to do with my life and music,” he said.
The Departed will celebrate and perform with many of the songwriters featured on the album at a semi-private show Tuesday night at Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa. The Departed then will play public CD release concerts Wednesday at Cain’s and Thursday at Oklahoma City’s Wormy Dog Saloon.
Canada and his bandmates knew they were tilling fertile musical soil with the concept, but even he seemed surprised at how quickly they gathered too many ideas.
“There was about five of ‘em that we’d been thinking about for a long time. But once we got started, man, we had to just shut it down. I mean, we had about 20 songs picked, so we had to shave it off, man, because we didn’t have that much time for the studio,” he said in a phone interview last week from the road in Abilene, Texas.
Rather than choosing one of Cale’s well-known hits like “After Midnight” or “Cocaine,” the band picked “If You’re Ever in Oklahoma.” It seemed a perfect complement“Home Sweet Oklahoma” by Russell, a newly inducted member of both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Songwriters Hall of Fame.
“We listen to that song every night, Jeremy and I — not our version, but his (Russell’s) version, or Skinner’s version, he had one a few years back — and You can’t really do a tribute record to Oklahoma songwriters without including those two guys,” Canada said.
The album’s lead single, “The Ballad of Rosalie,” is the first song Canada can recall hearing out at The Farm. He vividly remembers Skinner playing Randy Pease’s yarn about love, lust and touring in the Gypsy Cafe, the shack where much of the jamming took place.
“I just fell in love with it,” he said. “When we went in to practice for the first time, that was the first tune we fired up, the first song The Departed ever played.”
“Twenty years from now when we’re still rocking on the road, we’ll still be playing that song. Songs come and go in set lists, I learned that with Ragweed,” he added, “but I think ‘Rosalie’s’ gonna be one of those ones that are always there.”
Along with Skinner’s “Water Your Own Yard” and “Skyline Radio,” Canada and his cohorts picked several songs from red dirt mainstays, including the late Bob Childers’ “Make Yourself Home,” Red Dirt Rangers’ “Starin’ Down the Sun” and Greg Jacobs’ “A Little Rain Will Do.” Kevin Welch sings along on his “Kickin’ Back in Amsterdam, and the album includes phone calls from Skinner, Ranger John Cooper and Randy Crouch, an idea that developed as the band struggled to adapt Crouch’s “Face on Mars.”
Entering another orbit to translate Crouch’s spacey rocker from an old acoustic recording was the most challenging task on the project, Canada said.
“We couldn’t figure out what key it was in, and it was driving us crazy. We’d sit on the back of the bus and try to figure it out. We took it into the studio and turned it up on loud speakers. We put it in front of a tuner,” Canada said. “Then we realized that Randy had tuned his guitar to his fiddle and then he sped up the tape to make the song a little faster. So the key didn’t even exist. We messed with it and messed with it.”
When the frontman struggled to decipher one line of the song, he tried desperately for two or three months to contact the songsmith. One day while the band was in the studio with their cell phones off, Crouch left an enigmatic voicemail singing the baffling line. When he heard it, Canada knew the message had to be shared with their fans.
After all, sharing the band’s love for Oklahoma music is really the goal.
“That’s what I’ve always wanted to do with this project, “From the time I thought about doing it years ago, almost 10 years ago, I just wanted people to know where we come from,” Canada said.
“It was like a real selfless thing. From California to Florida, all the places that we’ve played, I’ve sat around talking to people about ‘Oh, you gotta hear this guy Tom Skinner or if you like this tune or you like this band, you’ll love Bob Childers’ … and now it feels like we finally get a chance to let people know who these people are.
“And hopefully they’ll get this record and they’ll dig into a Tom Skinner song and then they’ll search the Internet and try to find a Tom Skinner record. That’s the whole point of it.”
Cody Canada & The Departed album release shows
When: 8 p.m. Wednesday. Doors open at 7 p.m.
Where: Cain’s Ballroom, 423 N Main, Tulsa.
Information: (918) 584-2306 or www.cainsballroom.com.
When: 8 p.m. Thursday. Doors open at 6 p.m.
Where: Wormy Dog Saloon, 311 E Sheridan.
Information: 601-6276 or www.wormydog.com.
Cody Canada & The Departed “This Is Indian Land” track listing with songwriters
1. “Call From Crouch” – Randy Crouch
2. “Face on Mars” – Randy Crouch
3. “Ballad of Rosalie” – Randy Pease
4. “True Love Never Di’es” – Kevin Welch, Gary Scruggs
5. “Home Sweet Oklahoma” – Leon Russell
6. “Make Yourself Home” – Brad James, Bob Childers
7. “Long Way to Nowhere” – Mike Shannon
8. “Call From Coop” – John Cooper
9. “Starin’ Down the Sun” – Bob Childers, John Cooper, Brad Piccolo
10. “Any Other Way” – Steve Littleton, Brad James
11. “Kickin’ Back in Amsterdam” – Kevin Welch
12. “Water Your Own Yard” – Charkie Christian, Greg Jacobs, Tom Skinner
13. “Years in the Making” – Mark Ambler, Bob Childers, Benny Craig, Scott Evans, Tom Skinner
14. “If You’re Ever in Oklahoma” – J.J. Cale
15. “A Little Rain Will Do” – Greg Jacobs
16. “Call From Skinner” – Tom Skinner
17. “Skyline Radio” – Tom Skinner
18. “Hold on Christian” – Scott Evans