Cross Canadian Ragweed smokin’ in High Point

by Ryan Snyder

Cross Canadian Ragweed performs at the Aquarius Music Hall (photo by Ryan Snyder). For a band who’s albums have been largely hit-ormiss, there has been one constant in the lengthy career of Red Dirt rockers Cross Canadian Ragweed. Their live performances are consistently dynamic, playing like a jukebox of rock and country influences from the Outlaws to Alejandro Escovedo. Blending alt-rock with the Southern-rock style of Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers with heavy doses of country thrown in for good measure over the span of seven albums and 14 years, Cross Canadian Ragweed has carved out a quite a successful career indeed. Fans of their brand of country rock, or those just coming over from country to rock, got a taste of the Oklahoma quartet this past Saturday night at the Aquarius Music Hall.

The night was led off by hard-rocking Texas quintet Reckless Kelly in one of the more perfect tour pairings you’ll see. Reckless Kelly were at the same time a little more country and a little heavier than their headlining brethren, leaning heavily on the distorted electric guitar of David Abeyta for their hour-long set. The twangier side of Kelly showed itself early on, with “Wicked Twisting Road” eliciting the most appreciation of the night from the four hundred in attendance, as many finally started singing along to the songs refrain. Mandolinist and fiddle player Cody Braun was all but drowned out once the high-energy “I Still Do” took hold, which the band led into an extended jam in “Loretta.” They closed their night “Crazy Eddie’s Last Hurrah,” leaving the air thick with the energy that would spill over into the opening notes of Cross Canadian Ragweed’s set.

Looking like the younger brother of Tommy Lee with his greasy black hair and well-defined soul patch, singer and guitarist Cody Canada looked slightly befuddled by the support beam splitting the stage in half, not knowing which portion of the audience to direct opener “Sister” towards. The country-rock rabble-rousers lived up to their reputation for loud, high-energy shows and stellar musicianship as they thundered on with the defiant “Don’t Need You” and scathing “Record Exec.” Due in part to the robust rock sound emanating forth, some of the twang in Canada’s vocals were drowned out amidst his crunchy guitar solos and Jeremy Plato’s authoritative bass interludes.

It didn’t ebb the festive ambiance within the Aquarius, however as Canada treated the crowd of CCR apparel-clad fans to an offering from a forthcoming album, the cowboy-tuned “Rosalie.” The band rolled through favorites like the rowdy “Hammer Down,” “Anywhere but Here” and “Deal,” until Canada gave into the urge to comment on the Aquarius’ unconventional stage set-up. “I gotta admit that sometimes it’s kinda weird when you’re right f**king there,” he noted.

He went on to treat the crowd to “something old” by Dave Miller after relating how the band “used to listen to a lot of country until they started smoking a lot of pot,” though he might have confused the classic Vern Gosdin number “Set ‘Em Up Joe” for a much older tune.

Braun made his reappearance on fiddle in support of Cross Canadian Ragweed as the band unplugged for a decidedly mellower third act, punctuated by an unconventional cover of Willie Nelson’s “Me and Paul” and a fiddle tease of “Jingle Bells” to introduce “Blue Bonnets.” Bearing in mind the liberal sixer sales policy maintained by the Aquarius, it made perfect sense for the band to once again close the night out on its regular show finisher. No other song could have done the justice that the hilarious Todd Snider hangover ballad “Late Last Night” did, as it was going to clearly speak for the dozens there sporting spent beer cases as caddies for the dozen unopened beers they bought at the bar come morning.