Cross Canadian Ragweed at home in the ‘Garage’
Randy Ragsdale got no hassles from his dad when he wanted to set up the family’s Yukon, Okla., house as a rehearsal space for a garage band. Johnny Ragsdale had been a guitarist himself. The elder Ragsdale actually cracked the whip when it came to rehearsing.The younger Ragsdale got more resistance from the musicians he encountered in Yukon. Ragsdale would haul his guitar around to parties and invite the players he’d meet to come over his house and jam.”It took a year to get everyone over there. I don’t think they thought I was serious,” said Ragsdale, now 28. “Finally, I told everyone that what I really was, was a drummer. I told them to come around my house and we could really jam.
“But it only took once, and they kept coming after that.”Out of those jam sessions was formed Cross Canadian Ragweed, a name that comes from the three original members – guitarist Grady Cross, lead singer-guitarist Cody Canada and Ragsdale. Soon after creating the band, the trio picked up another member, bassist Jeremy Plato, also a native of Yukon. Having people to play with, and a place to jam, Cross Canadian Ragweed needed little other impetus to get serious about the music.”Yukon was very small. Now it’s more like a suburb of Oklahoma City, but it started out as a small country town,” said Ragsdale, whose band makes its Aspen debut Saturday night, Jan. 14, at the Wheeler Opera House. “There was not much to do if you weren’t a sports player. Which we weren’t. My dad was a guitar player, so I latched onto that deal.”Johnny Ragsdale was a country guitarist, who even got in some licks with a young Reba McEntire and the kings of Texas swing, Bob Wills & the Texas Playboys. Cross Canadian Ragweed followed in those footsteps, starting out playing the tunes of Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard, and stepping into rock with covers of Lynyrd Skynyrd and Ted Nugent. But from the outset, the primary influence was alt-country icon Steve Earle; the first song Cross Canadian Ragweed played was Earle’s “Copperhead Road.”
The band has, at least in part, left its Oklahoma roots. After the four relocated together to the college town of Stillwater, Canada moved to New Braunfels, Texas, four years ago; Ragsdale followed two years later. But with over a decade, and an impressive seven albums to their credit, Cross Canadian Ragweed has stuck to its guns artistically.On “Garage,” released at the tail end of 2005, the band still has strong echoes of its original influences. Canada’s blazing guitar recalls Lynyrd Skynyrd on “Lighthouse Keeper”; “Breakdown” comes from the Willie Nelson corner of country. And throughout the album, but especially on the closing, acoustic-based, junkie’s lament “Bad Habit,” there is the imprint of Steve Earle’s influence. “Garage,” titled to reflect Cross Canadian Ragweed’s self-image as a garage band, covers most every bit of country and country-rock territory.”We never tried to conform and play all one thing,” said Ragsdale from Steamboat Springs, where the band is featured for the fifth year in the country-oriented Music Festival. “We play everything we’re listening to, whatever we liked.”
“Garage” debuted at No. 6 on Billboard’s country album chart, and has sold some 80,000 copies. That follows the band’s steady growth pattern; each of its albums has done roughly twice as well as the previous one. But “Garage” may also be a breakthrough for Cross Canadian Ragweed.”‘Garage’ is going to help us,” said Ragsdale. “You can already see it. But anyway, we’ll probably do another record pretty soon.”Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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