Cody Canada shaped the Texas/Red Dirt sound with his long-running band Cross Canadian Ragweed, exploring a decidedly non-Nashville brand of country rock. From the mid '90s until last year they played a kind of hippy honky-tonk rock that blends loose-limbed jams with barroom country and '70s conceptual arena rock. With CCR on semi-permanent hiatus, Canada's opened a new chapter with his backing band, the Departed. But while the band may have changed (only CCR bassist Jeremy Plato remains), the sound's the same. It's a bit jammier, and except for a couple tunes (the George Jones-ish "Make Yourself Home" and the pretty, nostalgic country-folk ode "A Little Rain Will Do"), the traditional country generally loses out to rock 'n' roll. It's hardly the most original or catchiest music, but Canada has the charm and conviction to sell it. He scores easy points with "Home Sweet Oklahoma," but what really impresses is the smoky, slow-burn blues number "Kickin' Back In Amsterdam," the wah-addled '70s funk workout "True Love Never Dies," and the supple piano-driven "Starin' Down The Sun," which crosses the Allman Brothers with Traffic. It's not as vibrant or immediate as their live show, but still showcases their wide-ranging talents and near-irresistible grooves.
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