Listen Up: Wednesday, October 17, 2002
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Cross Canadian Ragweed

Cross Canadian Ragweed (Universal South Records)

By Jeff Prince

Cross Canadian Ragweed’s fusion of rock ’n’ roll, country and western, and pure energy slays the crowds at clubs and music festivals. The band isn’t ashamed to do cover songs, and they often make them sound better than the originals — edgy and fun. The under-30 crowd, especially, gets mosh-crazy while Cody Canada sings and plays tasty chops on lead guitar. However, the band has self-produced several albums in recent years and proven the old adage that live-show excitement is difficult to capture in the studio.

The band says this c.d. is different. On Cross Canadian Ragweed, the band spent more time in the recording studio than usual, allowed Canada room to stretch his guitar, and found a major label willing to release the album without changes. Canada’s screaming guitar and harmonica punch up the music and give the album a party-hearty feel. Fans will love this album, and it does radiate at times. But Ragweed still hasn’t found its voice in a studio. Canada wrote or co-wrote all the songs, and it’s the music, not the musicianship, that hurts this c.d. The band’s intensity and originality are heard in the rocking “Don’t Need You,” “Walls of Huntsville,” and “Freedom,” but stilted writing sabotages several other tunes. “Brooklyn Kid” is a pointless description of a Vietnam vet who leaves his native New York for Texas, gets married, and enjoys smoking pot and listening to Grateful Dead records. The end. More interesting information could have been found on Brooklyn Kid’s driver’s license. Canada even breaks tense at one point to force a rhyme: “With the Grateful Dead spinnin’ round / Kick your feet back and be astound ... at the Brooklyn Kid.” I’m only “astound” that four lengthy verses revealed so little. At least the kids will scream at live shows when the song mentions “joints” and “Jerry Garcia.”

“Broken” offers a pleasing melody, chorus, and lead guitar — this is really a pretty song — but the cliché-ridden lyrics are painful to hear. Record label bigwigs supposedly worried that “Suicide Blues” might inspire kids to kill themselves a la Ozzy’s “Suicide Solution.” The song shouldn’t inspire anyone to do anything other than push the “Next” button on the c.d. player. Hey, I like these guys — seen ’em perform several times, and they’ve always delivered a great show. They’ll eventually capture the magic in the studio. Until then, we’re sticking to live shows and hoping the band finds a lyrical muse or explores the works of other songwriters.


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