Few will deny that in the late 90s, Cross Canadian Ragweed brought Oklahoma’s answer to Pat Green across the Red River, slamming it into the ears of Texans riding the wave of regional pride for all things Texana. Their music had a similar bravado but wove in grungier, angrier, more serious tunes in between the party anthems about beer drinking and pot smoking. Boland, Stoney, and a host of others soon followed and it wasn’t long before Texans adopted the boys from Oklahoma as their own, initiating the melding of two scenes into the under-descriptive but oft-used Texas/Red Dirt moniker.
The Ragweed train roared, having both hits and misses along the way; but lead man Cody Canada’s transparency paired with the garage band piss and vinegar that the group brought consistently for 15 years endeared them to their fanbase. But internal strife caused it all to disintegrate in 2010 with the band calling it quits as gracefully as it could, retiring the name in the process. The breakup disheartened not just the entire regional music scene but left both remaining members Cody Canada and bass player Jeremy Plato with a musical identity crisis.
The story goes that Cody picked up the phone a day or two after it became official and asked his musical partner of 15 years, “What are we gonna do?” to which Plato responded, “We’re gonna start a rock ‘n’ roll band, that’s what we’re going to do.”
So The Departed was born with Canada and Plato starting anew, the wounds still too fresh to simply pick up where they left off. But with a legacy already taken root and a rabid fanbase eager to follow, the task of establishing a new identity could only be described as daunting, if not impossible. As we’ve been taught, you’re always 17 in your hometown and Cody and Jeremy never left the neighborhood. People wanted Ragweed Part II and when they didn’t get it, the backlash ensued. Cody pushed back crazy rumors and deafening demands for staples like “Boys From Oklahoma” and “Carney Man”, which he swore never to play again.
Watching Cody and Plato’s musical journey since the Ragweed breakup has been fascinating. Not in the circus spectacle sense; it’s all underpinned in admiration, watching two guys who were once on top of this scene playing large venues and festivals all of a sudden having to play dive bars to pay the bills. As a fan, you hope your heroes persevere and as a writer, insight into the artist’s mindset is coveted. Cody has always obliged, never pulling punches about what is on his mind. For several years Canada seethed bitterness, anger, fear, and insecurity. It was concerning but it wasn’t all bad, most artists use those feelings to drive their music.
Balancing Cody’s heart-on-his-sleeve personality, Jeremy Plato has always come off as a quiet Steady Eddie. His foundational role in the band mimics his musical role as a bass player. It was cool to see him shine last year when commandeered The Departed and released “In Retrospect”, an entire album of old-school country covers.
In the midst of The Departed trying to figure it all out, there were experiments that failed, primarily, having a band with two frontmen – Canada and his longtime friend Seth James. While this combo ultimately did not work, neither were at fault and without question, Seth James is one of the most talented and under-appreciated artists around these parts. The chemistry was just odd and it confused people.
When I spoke with Cody 18 months ago, the anger was gone, and he was on the search for inspiration in the midst of a writing drought. Sitting down with him this winter, and despite just overcoming a very scary ordeal with his voice, he spoke about “3” with a peaceful enthusiasm. Excited to get it out into the world, devoid of anxiety. It’s the kind of peace you have when things are clear and you have life as under control as you can. Over the last 6 months, I’ve seen Cody play “Carney Man” with McClure with a smile on his face and sing “Boys From Oklahoma” like he was in the thick of those Ragweed heydays. He’s embraced the past, realizing that mixing in old with the new makes people happy and using music to make people happy is a good thing.
In late June, Cody Canada and The Departed will release “3”, which aptly summarizes their state of affairs. This is their third album of original material (Adventus & HippieLovePunk being the predecessors), the third year drummer Eric “Waldo” Hansen has been behind the kit, and “3” being the number of members in the band. The singles “Unglued”, “Lipstick” and “Daughter of The Devil” are already out there and we got to hear a few others off the record at recent live shows. Thus far it’s safe to say that The Departed finally appears to be comfortable in its own skin. They aren’t trying to be Ragweed, but the sound is as true to those roots as we’ve seen on any Departed record. The guitar-driven rhythms and harmonica parts that we all know are there to underpin the meaningful songwriting Canada and producer in crime Mike McClure have always strived to achieve.
This discussion with Cody Canada is a long time coming. We talked on the back porch of his abode for the week in Key West during Mile 0 Fest. Some of the stuff heard during the interview has already leaked out and the intent was to get this out just before the original “3” release date of April 20th. Once the release moved to the summer, I ended up shelving it. In the interview, we touch a lot of subjects: overcoming vocal issues, family happenings, the Ragweed breakup, the evolution of The Departed, and of course “3”. It’s all good stuff, enjoy.
We started the week bringing you Brad’s thoughts on Mile 0 Fest and we’ll end the week with mine. As usual, they’ll be some media to add pictures to words.
Let’s start by rehashing a tweet sent the moment the festival closed on Saturday night.
All the artists and fans we’ve spoken to unanimously agreed that @Mile0Fest was a smashing success. The sunshine, a town of flip-flops and bicycles, the nightlife, the ocean, and now the music we love. Start saving your pocket change for 2019 Tweeps.
Almost a week removed from Mile 0, the sentiment still holds. This thing had a lot going for it, so let’s start with the festival itself:
The lineup was superb, especially for a first-year festival. While there were 50+ artists that participated, only about half of those saw the big stage. The rest did gigs at a handful of bars that partnered with the festival. Not quite as copious as LJT or Steamboat, but still very ample and high quality. In fact, they probably hit a sweet spot with the number of artists. You get too many names playing in different places at the same time and you have to make difficult choices on who to see and who to skip and that can leave a bad taste in your mouth. The event scheduling was so well done that you could see pretty much catch everyone at some point. During the early afternoon, you picked from any number of shows going on Duval Street and from 3pm up until 11 you hit the main acts up at the amphitheater.
The venue was great, sizable but not overwhelmingly big, with room for both lawn loungers and stage swooners. Sound quality was good. It was busy but not insane and you could get around easily. While the festival had an island attitude, it didn’t run on island time as all the acts were on/off stage at their assigned times. It made planning the day a lot easier.
Hitches and glitches were small and mostly undetectable. The biggest issue encountered surrounding this festival was securing lodging, which took us 4 four attempts to nail down. Two of the places found were double booked thanks to some AirBnB website issues while the third place shut down because of hurricane damage. Despite having nothing to do with the festival, the folks putting on Mile 0 Fest helped us locate new accommodations, going so far as setting up a conference call with the key organizers who were familiar with the town. After some searching, we landed at The Authors’ Guesthouse, a cool little B&B in old town. Barbey, our septuagenarian host and former “Queen of The Conch Republic”, graciously peppered us with island history, stories, and most importantly…coupons for free key lime pie and cocktails at various establishments across the island.
As for the attendees, the demographics definitely skewed towards the 35 and up crowd; mostly established professionals looking to get away and cut loose. Didn’t see massive quantums of vomiting or fights, no obnoxious people, just good folks loving good music. That’s the way it should be.
Now for the other half; after all, festivals are a holistic experience and without the backdrop, they’d all be the same. Imagine LJT without campfire jams or Steamboat without the mountains. Here are your Key West perks:
The weather. While our peeps in Dallas were dealing with 30-degree temperatures and sleet, Key West hovered in low 80’s. Factoring in the humidity, it was quite warm from mid-morning up until late afternoon before the sea breeze kicked in and quickly cooled things off. From 5 o’clock on, it was phenomenal. Scoreboard – Key West.
Duval street. Think Bourbon Street without seeing and smelling trash and vomit. It’s lined with bars, restaurants, and eateries of all types. For every garden variety crap T-shirt and souvenir shop, there was nicer boutique shops and funky art galleries.
The rest of the island. Key West is more than a one-trick pony. Lot’s of historical sites, museums, beaches, dining, and every type of water sport – fishing, diving, jet skiing, boating, you name it. My wife and I tacked on an extra day to squeeze in some snorkeling and sunset sailing in the 76-degree turquoise waters.
Wild chickens are everywhere and a car is more trouble than it’s worth. You can bike anywhere on the island in 10 minutes or if you aren’t into that, spend $10 on an Uber and get there in about the same amount of time. Walking is more than doable and the people watching sport can be fully enjoyed here. On the first day of the festival, I saw a guy get kicked out of a bar before 1 pm. That’s impressive.
The attitude. Packing for Key West is easy – shorts, your best beach bum shirt, and comfortable walking shoes/flip-flops. Nobody cares what you wear or don’t wear and if you’re into the clothing optional thing, Key West can accommodate you.
Mile 0 Music Highlights
We started Mile 0 by catching a Cody Canada and Mike McClure acoustic gig at the San Carlos Theater on Duval. Chip and Ray’s on-stage chemistry was fully engaged, swapping stories and jokes in between songs. Cody’s sons, Dierks and Willie, each did a number and we even heard “Carney Man” which Cody had once vowed to never play again. Overall, both seem to be in good places in life with McClure’s The Great Divide getting back together and Canada finally at peace with what went down with Cross Canadian Ragweed. I got to talk at length with both of them and we’ll post those chats in the coming weeks.
The main stage lineups definitely ramped up as the week progressed. Jason Eady, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Stoney LaRue and Wade Bowen all did their parts to kick it off on Wednesday in good form. Wade played most of his popular stuff while mixing a few of the new songs off his new record “Solid Ground”, which happened to drop during the festival. It was a huge week for Bowen.
Thursday’s lunchtime trifecta of Jamie Lin Wilson, Tina and Walt Wilkins doing an acoustic gig at the Smokin’ Tuna was a songwriter’s dream. The legendary husband-wife duo next to an artist at the top of her game in Jamie Lin. It was church on Thursday. Kylie Rae Harris, Kaitlin Butts, and Jason Eady all looked on, mostly in wonder but with a dash of terror mixed in for KRH who had to follow up that act with her own set.
Speaking of Jamie Lin Wilson, she’s without a doubt the biggest female act in our scene right now and you could easily argue to extend that title to most popular singer-songwriter overall. I’ll again reference a tweet made during the festival that pretty much sums up her week.
@jamielinwilson is freaking everywhere, she does her own gigs then teleports to every other show to sing on their set. She has superpowers. Next she’s going to launch a guitar into space and kick Elon’s ass. pic.twitter.com/hSuVeNIZIK
Her “Jamie Lin Jamboree” shows that occurred at the local Duval establishments were big hits, with various artists jumping on stage to jam. She even made some new fans who mistakenly thought her last name was “Jamboree”.
Thursday upped the intensity as Kevin Russell and the rest of the Shinyribs clan brought their swamp rock grooves to the big stage. Watching a Shinyribs show is like trying to catch a knuckleball, you have to stay on your toes because you have no idea where it’s going. This particular adventure ended with a Russell led conga line which included a giant inflatable duck and one William Clark Green.
Following up we got one of the biggest treats of the festival, the “Unleashed” show featuring Jack Ingram, Charlie Robison, and Bruce Robison. All icons in their own right, it’s hard to imagine how the greatness of their set snuck up on me the way it did. It was fantastic to watch these “old dogs” elevate the night and energize the crowd with their classic tunes.
Thursday ended with Pat Green, our gateway drug into this scene. He played all the hits while channeling his best Kevin Russell, lots of twirling and hand gestures. People ate it up, including some of the younger artists who idolized Pat growing up and were out in the crowd losing it like everyone else. William Clark Green got so excited he derailed Pat’s set by running onstage too early to sing “Wrapped” which he’s covered on the upcoming Pat Green tribute album.
For me, the coolest part of Pat’s show was when he played Galleywinter, our namesake. It was the first time I had heard the song since joining the Galleywinter team just over a year ago and I got goosebumps. This site has been rolling for almost 20 years and although my stint here as a writer covers a fraction of that, I felt proud to be a part of something that’s been a staple in this scene for so long.
Friday’s line up was monster, starting with Dalton Domino who happily embraced the island spirit.
Mike and The Moonpies continued to awaken people to their old school honky-tonk jams. We’ve been on The Moonpie train and think “Steak Night at the Prairie Rose” will likely make our Best of 2018 list in a year that’s gonna be packed with great new records. For those in the crowd who hadn’t heard of them, whipping out some Rusty Wier made them quick friends.
The Departed followed, then Jason Boland and The Stragglers. Both announced their new records coming out this year and I’m sure we’ll be covering them.
The penultimate act of the night was the Old 97’s. A little bit country and a lot of rock ‘n’ roll, these guys can still bring it after 25 years.
Finally, there was Turnpike. What’s there to say about Turnpike that hasn’t been already said? They are bad ass and consummate professionals. Ryan Engleman’s son crashed the stage and gave everyone a chuckle.
Saturday closed out strong. It was my first and likely only time I’ll see Uncle Lucius since the band is soon calling it quits. The Great Divide’s new stuff is rock solid, in particular, “Spacebrain” and John Moreland’s take on “You Wreck Me” was one of many kickass homages to Tom Petty.
Shooter Jennings brought a different vibe compared to everyone else, it was like a bunch of bikers temporarily invaded the crowd and it got visibly rowdier. Nothing scary but definitely rougher.
It all ended with Cody Jinks and the more I hear him the bigger fan I become. Again, a Twitter thought to summarize:
Jinks’ final song to wrap it up: “Hippies and Cowboys” which seemed fitting for a hippie town that was invaded by a bunch of Texans and Okies.
By the time this hits the web, you’ll know Jamie Lin Wilson flew straight out of Key West and into the studio to record her next record. She didn’t need a plane, she just strapped on her cape.
The Great Divide is officially back together and slated to put out a new record this spring. Again, keep your eyes peeled for that McClure interview.
Many of the artists went full Cory Morrow and played the big stage barefoot. It ended up costing Pat Green, who probably broke his toe when he stubbed it on a piece of stage equipment. He fought through it with beer and eventually limped off stage.
PG has traded songwriting for painting and sculpting. He told us all about his new art venture, Galleywinter Galleries. Set to open soon in Fort Worth, it’ll feature all of his work plus work from other local artists.
Many lamented that Brandon Jenkins, who is about to undergo major surgery to replace a genetically defective heart valve, had to back out of Mile 0. It was cool to see the artists rally around their brother.
There were several items auctioned to raise money for charities like The Red Dirt Relief Fund. People dropping 5-6K on signed guitars isn’t something you are going to get from a broke college crowd.
Ran into Stoney one morning biking along Higgs Beach. Unlike his stage appearance, he was in full uniform this time – jeans, bandana and tight shirt so you could spot him a half mile away.
I’ll second Brad’s comment on Frita’s Cuban burgers, you need to check out that hole in the wall when you are in KW.
We tried as many key lime pies as we could. Kermit’s was the worst, the best was a toss up between Blue Heaven’s meringue monster and Matthesen’s.
Our secret to getting into Blue Heaven without a dinner wait… get there at 5:30pm
My cholesterol went up 50 points just listening to hostess Elizabeth Cook’s intoxicated southern drawl. It was like eating a stick of butter and chasing it with a mess of biscuits.