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{Brad's Corner} June 2018 – There’s Always Somebody Playing Somewhere

{Brad�s Corner}

“There’s always somebody playing somewhere.” That’s the quote the grizzled songwriter gave me post-set as he gazed out at the domestic longneck swilling crowd that had been nonplussed by his original offerings, yet exploded onto the dance floor during his loadout to the successive medley of The Wobble, Cupid Shuffle, Copperhead Road.  You know the drill.  The venue we were in was one of my favorites and as I surveyed the scene and began apologizing to the artist on behalf of the lack of true music fans in the house that particular evening, he clinked my glass, squinted as if he was Woodrow Call staring into the morning sun and said the above quote with a sly grin on his face.  One of the biggest bands in the scene was playing a sold out show of 1200 folks 15 minutes down the road.  The crowd in front of us barley etched into three digits.

At that moment, I realized that this was an issue he and others faced all too often.  So often, in fact, that it was commonplace.  It’s what makes the special gigs truly unique.  Those nights where everything clicks.  The crowd is into it.  The sound is fantastic.  The vibe unparalleled.  Those nights are rare.  More often, the crowd is light, the sound is inconsistent and the vibe is lacking.

You’re either at the place to be or the place to listen.  It is extremely uncommon for those two places to share the same address.  There are benefits to both.  Sometimes you just want to load up with your boys and go drink 28 beers while screaming along to your favorite songs from the band of the moment.  You’re one of thousands (or hundreds) in the same boat that night depending on the venue.  Bad sound, who cares…you’re going to be screaming and Snapping over it anyway.  You’re creating your own vibe…you don’t need the band and venue for that.  On the flip side, when you truly need to hear what the songwriter is saying, you want it to be set up right.  You want the personal connection.  You want to sip a few.  You want to soak in the songs and stories.

This dichotomy of musical needs and wants is what led us to create River Jam.  It’s why we have a multitude of show styles over the River Jam weekend.  Rocked out full band insanity.  Intimate songwriter passion. And everything in between. It’s why we promote full band shows across the state, but are creating a spot for songwriters in Waco called The Landing. With apologies to Hannah Montana, it’s the best of both worlds.

There will always be somebody playing somewhere.  And it’s always been our goal to be in touch with what’s happening in both locales.  Those addresses change places quickly in this life and scene.  Today’s zeitgeist is tomorrow’s history.  Last week, I saw photos and posts on social media of Cory Morrow and Drew Womack playing sparsely attended acoustic shows for tourists on South Padre Island.  There was a time when both of those guys could fill up any venue in this state.  Any venue.  Times change.  It is rare for acts to retain their drawing power.  After all, there is always somebody playing somewhere.  The competition doesn’t stop.  It’s fierce, relentless and never-ending.  All of this came to the forefront of my consciousness due to The Co-Write boys and I setting about recording an episode looking back at bands/acts that had a surge at one time and have kind of fallen into the cracks of scene history to be nearly forgotten.  I’ve also taken a deep dive into my audio collection in preparation for another trip to turn some tables with Mattson Rainer next month.  Predicting long term success in music is even less certain that scouts predicting long term athletic success in pro sports. You boom and you bust.

We’ve always prided ourselves on catching the next big thing on its way up.  Our batting average is pretty good.  Sustainability is not the same metric as possibility.  Even those that reach the mountaintop eventually fall victim to the ills of the Wobble and a crowd half paying attention as the true music fans are down the road seeing the next big thing.  Those of us involved in this scene, website and community see far more than the average amount of concerts.  With that in mind, I implore you to seek out all avenues for your valuable entertainment dollar.  Go see someone you’ve never seen and someone you haven’t seen in a long time as often as you see your favorites.  After all, there’s always somebody playing somewhere.



-Fathers Day has always been pretty epic.  Golf, grilling out, laziness, gluttony.  Now that I get the dad’s share of attention, it’s pretty boss.  Yet, it also causes me great reflection and melancholy as I miss my pops and grandpa. With all the bad surrounding us in this world, I hope you reached out to your old man yesterday in one form or another.

-Venturing back to NOLA next month for my birthday.  Last time I was there was last year for a bachelor party that got a little out of hand.  One member of our group broke his foot in the midst of drunken shenanigans on Bourbon Street.  The only upside was it did get us bumped to the preboarding group for SWA.  So, fun note…take a walking boot with you and cut the line.

-RIVER JAM is next month!  That’s a big weekend in NBTX.  But, if any town can handle that much music and madness it’s the 830.  I’ll be on air with Troubadour Country Radio and KNBT plugging the show a bit over the coming weeks.

-Someone rented the cabin we’ve stayed in on the Guad for the past decade before we could. Right out from under us. When I get there and find out who it was, my Elm Mott is coming out.

-With my team in the dumpster, this MLB season has been interminable.  We’re in the sports hinterlands until two-adays starts.

-We aren’t sure Hank done it this way, but what would he be doing today?

-A fun bit is to download the AMI jukebox app and play inappopriate or annoying songs at bars you’re not at, but that you know you’re buddies are.

-I haven’t taken 35 on purpose in weeks and it’s been life-changing.  I recommend it if you can.

-This months’ recommended album: Paul Cauthen – Have Mercy EP.  Cauthen’s last record was one of the best to pop out of Texas in many years.  Bombastic, diverse, soulful.  Country brained, gospel hearted.  Echoes of Cash, Waylon and Elvis strained through the songwriting of Keen.  He picks up where he left off and at times the entire trying too hard persona of being an Americana rock star could probably rub some the wrong way…just take in the tunes and leave the image stuff out of your head.  Get lost in the melodies and that monster voice.

-“Of all the things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most.” – Mark Twain

Departing For the Third Time

by: Cody Starr

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.



3 days.  3 venues. Good music, better times. Float the river, sing along, grab a beer or twelve and your buds and join in.  Read the rest

{Brad's Corner} May 2018: Changing Minds

{Brad�s Corner}

I’ve written many times about the role certain people had in shaping my musical taste.  Parents, sister, friends, acquaintances.  As a father, I’m currently trying to combat the inundation of societal Imagine Dragons type musical norms on my children with heaping doses of Shinyribs, Willie Nelson and Beatles.… Read the rest

Way Back When Again With Hedley and Crockett

There’s an old saying that goes “what’s old is new again,” and with music that is often the case.  There are very few new ideas, everything is filtered by the music of the past.  Most artists take that and move the ball forward, but others take that notion and inject every bit of their art with classic sounds, images and hallmarks. … Read the rest