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Cross Canadian Ragweed cooks soul gravy

By Dan MacIntosh, May 2004

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Although Cross Canadian Ragweed doesn't call itself a country band, it still hopes open-minded country music fans will pick up on what they do.

"I know when the Kentucky Headhunters came out," Canada notes "what, 15 years ago or more, I remember that just slayed me. I said, 'This really isn't country, but they're country boys.' I hope it (our album) kind of picks up like that. I hope people turn an ear toward it, knowing this is something different and knowing that we're influenced by country, but that we're stepping out on a limb."

At the same time, Canada has at least one personal favorite country artist that fits firmly inside the straight country category.

"As far as the top of the food chain goes, to me it's George Strait," he explains. "He's always been my favorite."

And as far as rock and roll, Canada quickly names Van Halen, Aerosmith and Nugent. "I've been back into Boston here lately," he notes. "I've always been a Boston fan. I bailed back into them again. The Who. The Rolling Stones. I think if you like rock and roll, you have to like The Stones. Growing up, Van Halen was a big one just because I yearned to play lead guitar like Eddy. I saw every Van Hagar tour that came through Oklahoma City."

These Oklahoma boys are quickly becoming full-time Texans, however.

"Grady, our rhythm player, and Jeremy (Plato), our bass player, are the only ones that live in Oklahoma. Randy's moving down and packing even as we speak, right now. The crew and myself and Randy (Ragsdale) all live down here. I was born in the panhandle, and I grew up in northern Texas - like on the weekend and every holiday. I've always liked it, but I've had enough of Oklahoma. There's no hard feelings. I just wanted to go where it was a little more scenic and the music scene was hot. I live in New Braunfels, which is just south of Austin. When we moved to Stillwater, Okla. in '94, it was a really hot music scene. And then it just quit because everybody left. And now everybody I grew up with musically in Stillwater is here. So we're just kind of moving the scene around."

Canada, most oftentimes writes about real situations, which is one possible reason why his songs many times receive such strong emotional reactions. And these character songs range from the new album's empathetic "Lonely Girl," to another new one titled "Gold Hearted Woman," which is about a girl not nearly so lovable.

"I try not to write very many songs that aren't based on somebody," he explains. ""Lonely Girl" is about my sister-in-law (Shelby O'Neal). The same girl that (another new song) "Sick And Tired" is about. "Cold Hearted Woman" is about Jeremy our bass player's wife, his ex-wife now. Or in the process of becoming his ex-wife. I came to (producer) Mike (McClure) on that one. I said, 'I'm almost done with it. I wanna get you in with this one.' He threw out a few lines, and I was, 'Nah, that's not really it.' He said, 'How personal do you want to get?' And I answered, 'The most. I want every line to be true: from her point of view of not caring, to his point of view of caring.'"

Since writing this song might lead to Canada singing about the breakdown of his band mate's relationship on stage for many years to come, he needed to be absolutely sure his friend and partner was comfortable with this highly personal creation.

"He is," Canada affirms. "And I'm glad he is, because when I wrote it, I was on an acoustic tour with Mike and Jason Boland. We were doing just a little acoustic thing - five, six or seven cities, I can't remember what it was - and met up with Jeremy. And I said, 'I'm going to play a song tonight, and I'm not going to explain it. But I'm going to play it. Tell me what you think.' And I played it live, and he said, 'Man, I love that.' So I said, 'You get it, right?' And he was, 'Oh yeah, I get it.' So I said, 'What do you say?' And he said, 'Let's record it.' That's (now) one of his favorites on the record."

Plato could have easily reacted to this song by making quick and messy sole gravy out of Canada's face. Instead, Cross Canadian Ragweed has transformed this one soul's suffering into sweet musical soul gravy.

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