The Hodgepodge: Red Dirt Favorites

Reckless Kelly

Once again, I found myself in a busy work week, and a long weekend of traveling and shutting out the rest of the world didn’t help either when it came time to write this week’s feature. I have no ideas simmering this week, so today I’ve decided to list a few of my favorite Red Dirt/Texas songs and albums. I’ll link most songs discussed and embed to the page, but I encourage all of you to listen to these and seek them out. I’m a big Red Dirt country fan and continue to expand and discover new songs and artists on a fairly regular basis.

Just to reiterate, these are my personal favorites. This list is not a top songs or “best of” list. And as always, I’d love to hear other recommendations if I overlooked a favorite of yours on this list.

Some Favorite Red Dirt Albums

Reckless Kelly’s Wicked Twisted Road – The title track of the album is probably my favorite Reckless Kelly song of all time, but this whole album is great. With hit after hit like “Seven Nights in Eire”, “Motel Cowboy Show” and “Baby’s Got a Whole Lot More”, Reckless Kelly delivers a solid album from start to finish. If you’ve never really listened to this band before, Wicked Twisted Road is a great place to start.

Wade Bowen’s Lost Hotel – Just as a simple country album, regardless of region or radio popularity, Lost Hotel stands as one of the best. Bowen delivers some powerful vocal performances on a few well written ballads and balances them with excellent upbeat country songs. Without a doubt, Lost Hotel is Bowen’s best album.

Seth James’ That Kind of Man – Seth James is a background player in Texas country, but his lone solo album is a constant on my iPhone. James has one of the best singing voices I’ve heard, delivering songs with captivating and powerful vocals. For a short time, James was also a part of Cody Canada’s new band, The Departed, where he and Canada swapped vocal leads on the band’s album Adventus. But James’ solo album is one to listen to over and over again.

Turnpike Troubadours’ Diamonds & Gasoline – This is an album loaded with great song after great song from the Oklahoma country band. Opening with “Every Girl” immediately followed by “7&7” sets a great mood and proves that country music can be fun without mentions of fireball shots. The album also includes a title track that tugs at your heart and the intriguing story of “The Funeral.” Diamonds & Gasoline is an album that doesn’t get old.

Some Favorite Red Dirt Songs

“Hank” Jason Boland & The Stragglers – An excellent country protest song about the state of country music. As great as the song is, it’s poignant with the hook line “Hank Williams wouldn’t make it now in Nashville, Tennessee.” That’s just a sad thought.

“Oh Tonight” Josh Abbott Band feat. Kacey Musgraves – Back before Musgraves’ big break, she collaborated with Josh Abbott on this love song. Her inclusion here is welcome and adds a great layer to the song. Both Abbott and Musgraves offer up great vocal performances on a great production.

“Alabama” Cross Canadian Ragweed – I’ve become a huge fan of Cody Canada’s over the past year, digging into the Ragweed discography along with The Departed. He’s written and recorded many songs I love, but this rocking love song stands as one of my favorites.

“Lost and Found” Randy Rogers Band – This breakup song from The Randy Rogers Band is one of their many great songs. I love the melody of the song and Rogers’ vocal delivery pulls at your heartstrings as he realizes how he messed things up in the relationship.

“Used To Be” The Great Divide – Written by Red Dirt founding father Tom Skinner, “Used To Be” reminisces of the way things used to be in a small town. Between the great upbeat lead guitar riff and the lyrics, “Used To Be” may be the quintessential Red Dirt song.

“Crazy Eddie’s Last Hurrah” Reckless Kelly – For those who think Tyler Farr is redneck crazy, let me introduce to Crazy Eddie. This song is absolutely absurd, but it’s so over-the-top that you can’t help but enjoy it. If you want to write a ridiculous break up song, this is how it’s done.

Upcoming/Recent Country Music Releases

  • Tomorrow, The Turnpike Troubadours will release their new, self-titled album.
  • Eric Paslay has hinted at new music which will be revealed tomorrow.
  • Tim McGraw has announced the title of his next album, Damn Country Music. 
  • Next week, Don Henley will release his first solo album in 15 years. Cass County will hit the shelves on September 25.
  • Sunny Sweeney and Brennen Leigh sang a song together at a recent acoustic show in Austin, Texas.  “But If You Like Country Music” finds two men at the far ends of the political spectrum finding common ground in Merle Haggard. It’s a fun, witty song that you can’t help but enjoy.
  • Toby Keith’s newest single off 35 MPH Town is called “Rum is the Reason.”
  • Jana Kramer has a new album due out October 9 called Thirty One. The album features her current single “I Got The Boy” as well as her previous single “Love.”

Today in Country Music History

  • In 1923 country music’s first big star, and most influential singer/songwriter, Hank Williams, is born in Mount Olive, Alabama.
  • Reba McEntire makes her first appearance on the Grand Ole Opry in 1977.

Today’s Country Music history facts come courtesy of RolandNote.

Throwback Thursday Song

“Your Cheatin’ Heart” – Hank Williams. In honor of Hank’s birthday, it only seems appropriate for today’s throwback song to be one of his best. Hank recorded “Your Cheatin’ Heart” in one of his last recording sessions before his death at age 29. The song’s release immediately following Williams’ death propelled him to an instant success.

Non-Country Suggestion of the Week

Foo Fighters – Songs From The Laundry Room. This four-song EP was originally compiled and released strictly for Record Day 2015, but Grohl and company re-released it for mass-consumption this month. Songs From The Laundry Room consists of demos of early Foo Fighters’ songs recorded in the early 90s, one cover of “Kids in America” and a previously unreleased song called “Empty Handed.” If you’re a fan of the Foo Fighters, this is a great EP to add to your collection.

Tweet of the Week

This fake “Drunken Martina McBride” twitter account is one of my favorite parody accounts. She pulls no punches when it comes to calling out bros on their stupidity.

An iTunes Review To Which I Shake My Head

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This was for Brett Eldredge’s Illinois. I listened to the album, and I don’t quite know where this reviewer heard “that true country sound” because I sure didn’t. Some crappy lyrics throughout the album, especially on “Drunk On Your Love” which is one of the dumbest, unoriginal songs ever. And don’t even get me started on that awful disco song he sang with Thomas Rhett.

Album Review – Cody Canada and the Departed’s HippieLovePunk

Cody Canada became a household name in the Red Dirt/Texas scene with his former band Cross Canadian Ragweed, releasing four straight top ten albums. Most bands would stick together and keep making top ten albums. Instead they parted ways and now a few years after the breakup Canada makes a return to the sound of his Cross Canadian Ragweed days with his new band The Departed. They’ve also re-added Canada’s name to the front of their name after just being called The Departed last year. This is also the return of Canada to being the sole main vocalist of his band since Seth James, who had been sharing vocal duties with Canada in The Departed, left the group. With Jeremy Plato on bass guitar, Steve Littleton on keyboards and Chris Doege on drums, does Cody Canada and the Departed deliver with their new album HippieLovePunk? Yes they do.

The album begins with “Comin To Me.” It starts with some slick electric guitar play that sets a fast pace. It’s definitely classic Canada with his brand of rock country. This is a song you can move your feet to with its infectious rhythm and pace. The piano play with the electric guitar in the bridge is phenomenal. This is followed up with “Inbetweener,” another song with a very likable southern rock sound. The song has a swagger attitude about it, giving it a nice edge. The album then slows down with “Easy.” It’s about how everyone strives to make their lives easier, whether it’s avoiding the crap on television or finding a good woman to love. Once again I like the combination of the guitar and the piano.

This is followed with “Revolution,” which has more of a punk rock feel to it, especially since the theme of it is starting a revolution to make the world a better place. It’s a rock country anthem that is pretty much guaranteed to get your head moving as your listening to it. It’s edgy, in your face and I love it. Canada and the Departed slow it down again with “Back Closer.” The song seems to be a reflective song about the band touring on the road and singing their songs; the song deals with how every night varies, where some are good and others are bad. It’s an honest and revealing look into life on the road for a band.

“Got It” is a song that doesn’t do much for me. It’s kind of boring, as the pace of the song feels uneven and there’s really nothing to sink your teeth into. The lyrics are a little puzzling and don’t do a good job of explaining what this song is about. This is definitely the weak link on the album. The band goes back to what they’re best at with “Great Big Nothin” though. It’s a fast paced foot-stomper. The song questions the integrity of society and wonders if everything is “just a lie.” Just like “Revolution” earlier in the album, this song has a punk rock attitude. The electric guitar is loud and proud in this song.

The band trades electric guitars for acoustic guitars in “Maker.” The song is about waiting on the “maker man” and how the drive for this makes you want to keep living. I’m really not sure where they’re going with the theme on this song. It’s kind of confusing. The lyrics could definitely be better. The instrumentation and Canada’s vocals are great though. “Stay” is a mid-tempo heartbreak song where the man deals with the falling out of a relationship. He never meant to bring her down and walk away, but he wonders why should they stay. Upon first listen this song may not seem like much, but I think it grows on you the more you listen to it. The instrumentation is once again flawless and works really well with the lyrics.

Without a doubt the highlight of this entire album is “Boss of Me,” a song about a man telling his woman that she isn’t the boss of him. Despite his pleas, she sounds very much to be the boss of him. The attitude is edgy, rough and aggressive. Everything in this song works brilliantly, from the lyrics to the instrumentation to the tone. It does a good job of creating the right feel for the what man is coming from in this song. The lyrics avoid painting the man to be condescending and bossy; instead it paints the picture of a man who isn’t in control, even though he likes to think he is. What else can I say: this song flat-out rocks!

The album concludes with “All Nighter,” a very sobering song about life. The song deals with how life is short and how you should live every day to the fullest. It’s quite somber, but it also offers some light too. It should be noted Canada is joined on vocals by all four Braun brothers, Willy and Cody of Reckless Kelly, along with Micky and Gary of Micky & The Motorcars. The song is dedicated to Mark McCoy, a former bassist for the Motorcars who drowned to death in Idaho a few years ago. It’s a pretty cool tribute with a nice story behind it. From an interview with Texas Monthly, Canada explains the story and meaning behind “All Nighter”:

“There was a loss in our music family that hurt pretty badly, and I wanted that person to know that we thought of him every day,” Canada explains of the collaboration. “Micky Braun passed on writing the song to me. I think it was a little too close to the chest for him. So on New Year’s Eve of 2013, I finished it. I played it a month later for [their father] Muzzy Braun up in Idaho by his wood burning stove. I noticed the stove had ‘All Nighter’ etched on the front. I had no idea. It was meant to be.”

Canada wrote the song for Mark “Gus” McCoy, the Micky and the Motorcars bassist who drowned in 2012, and says that he was inspired to write it after his wife had a conversation with Braun family patriarch, Muzzy, about how he and his wife raised their sons. “He told us to raise good kids you have to keep them close by your side,” Canada recalls. “I took that in and finished the song with a Braun in mind for each verse.” 

Right after “All Nighter” a nameless, hidden bonus track plays where it’s just Canada singing while playing an acoustic guitar. It deals with the same themes as “All Nighter” and proves Canada is just as good with slowed down, acoustic songs as he is with his normal rock country songs. I recommend hearing this song for yourself.

Cody Canada and the Departed’s HippieLovePunk is a pretty solid album for the most part. The instrumentation on this album is pretty close to perfect. The Departed should be quite proud of this. I can say the same of the vocals, with the best performance in this aspect coming on the final song “All Nighter” where Canada and the Braun brothers exceptionally express the right emotion behind their performance. Other than the final two songs, there weren’t any other “big” moments that stood out on this album to me and I was hoping for a couple more of these type of songs. Nevertheless there are very few weak moments on this album and while there weren’t a lot of big songs as I mentioned, it’s pretty damn good in all aspects. HippieLovePunk is definitely an album worth checking out, especially if you love rock country music.

Grade: 8.5/10