Cody Canada is ready to give a festival audience a heavy dose of Cross Canadian Ragweed. He just wants to make it clear that he’ll be doing so with the Departed.
At a one-day festival called Spring Revelry, which organizers and artists confirmed to Rolling Stone will take place on May 4 in Indianola, Iowa, at the sprawling Memorial Balloon Field, Cody Canada and the Departed will perform Ragweed’s 2004 record Soul Gravy — one time the defining album of the Red Dirt genre — from front to back.
Canada’s set is part of a stacked festival lineup headlined by Turnpike Troubadours and Ryan Bingham with the Texas Gentlemen. Trampled by Turtles, Muscadine Bloodline, Josh Meloy, Kaitlin Butts, and Tyler Halverson are also on the bill. Tickets go on sale — via Ticketmaster — Wednesday at 9 a.m. Central.
Ragweed was signed to Universal South when Soul Gravy was released, and the label retains the rights to the album. Ragweed broke up in 2010. Since then, Canada and Ragweed bass player Jeremy Plato have toured as the Departed, which also features Eric Hansen on drums. In 2022, the Departed re-recorded Soul Gravy, free from label ties — think “Taylor’s Version” but for an Americana album. The release cast fresh attention on the Departed, who have since enjoyed a sustained run of sellout or near-sellout crowds at venues like Gruene Hall and Billy Bob’s Texas. The band will make its Ryman Auditorium debut on March 2 as part of a triple bill with Randy Rogers and Stoney LaRue. At the same time, calls on social media for a Ragweed reunion, Canada says, have become increasingly difficult to ignore.
“The one thing that really does bother me about it is, I just wish people could remember better than they do,” Canada tells Rolling Stone. “They’re hearing memories. And they are drunk memories, because what we do now with the Departed is better than Ragweed.
“When people hear Soul Gravy, they think of Ragweed shows. They think about how hammered they were, or that they got laid or that they made a big road trip. But what we’re doing now as a three-piece band is better. I’m sorry, but that’s the truth.”
Social media is not the only place where Canada finds clamoring for Ragweed. Since the pandemic, he says he has fielded eye-popping offers for a reunion. However, Ragweed — which featured Canada, Plato, drummer Randy Ragsdale and rhythm guitarist Grady Cross — ended with its members on bad terms. Canada says those differences have not been resolved.
“The offers I get for Ragweed are really hard to overlook sometimes,” Canada says. “But people don’t realize the hard feelings that are still there. It’s like asking somebody who is divorced if they’ll get remarried. The answer is ‘Fuck no,’ right? Well, what if somebody offers you three million dollars to get remarried? I’d love to be able to say yes, but I wouldn’t feel right about it. And I wish people would remember what we actually sounded like. The best nights of their lives were some of the worst performances of my life.”
Soul Gravy’s original release hit Number Five on Billboard’s country albums chart and Number 51 on the Hot 200. Two songs — “Alabama” and the Lee Ann Womack duet “Sick and Tired” — made the Billboard country songs chart.
“I knew that ‘Sick and Tired’ would do something, just because of Lee Ann,” Canada says. “One reviewer called me and her ‘barbed wire and roses’ and I never forgot that. I understood at the time that it would be at least a blip on the radar. But luckily, it was more than that. Every song on there, from front to back, I was very happy with. There wasn’t anything I wanted to change. I just didn’t know it was going to be as talked about as it has been since.”
The original record was produced by Mike McClure. The band produced the remake in-house, with Departed engineer Brian Kinzie overseeing the mixes. Womack reprised her vocals on “Sick and Tired” and Randy Rogers and Ray Wylie Hubbard also contributed to the Departed’s version.
“This was a really good mix of tunes that meant something to me,” Canada says. “Nothing felt made up, like I was just looking for 12 songs to put on a record. It was a very personal record, I think, and the redo was a lot easier than I thought. There were a handful of tunes that we already did as a band, but once we got into the studio and started attacking it, everything came back to me. I’m not gonna say it wasn’t nostalgic, because it was. It was pretty awesome to relive all of those tunes for this.”
He says he’s looking forward to playing the album in its entirety. “We don’t really release full-length records anymore, and that’s something I really miss,” Canada says. “For someone to ask us to do it now, 20 years later, is pretty awesome.”
Josh Crutchmer is a journalist and author of the 2020 book Red Dirt: Roots Music Born in Oklahoma, Raised in Texas, at Home Anywhere and the 2023 book The Motel Cowboy Show: On the Trail of Mountain Music from Idaho to Texas, and the Side Roads in Between.