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Cross Canadian Ragweed tunes up in the "Garage"

By T.J. Simon, October 2005

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As the band's primary songwriter, Canada is not afraid to mine the events of his own life for material. "Breakdown," for example, draws upon the pressures Canada felt during the recording of "Garage."

"We were one month into the recording of the album, and I was trying to juggle having a pregnant wife at home and making the record," Canada says. "We walked into the studio with only four songs, so we had to write more material. I've never been so stressed out in my life, and it got to me one day. I broke down and started crying. I talked to God and wondered what I was doing wrong that would make me come to this point."

He adds, "My therapy was writing that tune."

On "After All," Canada draws upon the experience of a close friend's battle with alcoholism. "One of my best friends in the world has a real bad alcohol problem. I've tried to help him countless times. So, the song is about his struggles, his problems, his lies and everything that goes along with an addiction."

Among Cross Canadian Ragweed's influences cited by Canada include an unlikely one: the Texas-based heavy metal band, Pantera. On Dec. 9, 2004, the entire music world was shocked when Pantera's guitarist "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott (son of country songwriter Jerry Abbott) was murdered on stage in Ohio while performing with his new band Damageplan. Canada penned the tribute "Dimebag" as a means to help him process this tragedy.

"It's a murder song," Canada explains. "We heard about the death of Dimebag when we were in Las Vegas having a helluva time playing blackjack and partying after a gig. Somebody walked up to the table and told us that Dimebag got killed, and it just ended our night. There's definitely an influence with Pantera, and to know that somebody would walk on stage and kill you for playing music just astounded us. It didn't have to happen, but it needed to be written about."

Canada's devotion to his wife serves as the inspiration for a handful of songs from the new record, including "Final Curtain" and "Bad Habit." When speaking of his bride of six years, Canada sheds all pretension. "I'm a sap for that woman," he admits. "I have a thousand love songs I haven't written yet for my wife."

In addition to covers of songs by Todd Snider ("Late Last Night"), Scott Copeland ("Lighthouse Keeper") and Bo Diddley ("Who Do You Love?") on "Garage," Canada explores his own spiritual journey on the track, "When It All Goes Down."

"There always has to be a religious song on every record as far as I'm concerned," he says. "There has to be an ode to The Man." Although Cross Canadian Ragweed is on a Nashville label, Canada pulls no punches in his criticism of Music City's output. "I have a pretty bitter taste in my mouth over the whole country music scene," he says.

"Country music has turned to pop crap. I don't think that there's one damn thing that's country about Shania Twain. It's irritating to me that they market her as country because they just threw a fiddle and a steel guitar on her records."

So, is there anyone left in the genre that Canada respects?

"There are four people that are playing real country music today: Lee Ann Womack, George Strait, Dierks Bentley, and Gary Allan," he says. "Every song that they release is better than the next."

Canada also tips his hat to the troubadours populating the alternative country/Americana scene.

"The Americana guys are the real country musicians out there," he says. "They're not just guys in hats who won karaoke contests. They actually get up, write songs and be country, you know?"

As Cross Canadian Ragweed's music percolates into the mainstream, the foursome finds themselves often sharing the stage with some high profile friends, including the aforementioned Dierks Bentley.

"I think people that are cut from the same cloth will cross paths eventually," Canada says. "It's weird to me to actually see Dierks on TV. When we play shows with that guy, the women go crazy, and the dudes want to be him. But that's just Dierks. He's just a dude."

Cross Canadian Ragweed is a band of old school road warriors whose rabid following has grown exponentially via the group's relentless touring. It's not unusual for the boys to exceed 250 show dates in a single year. And with a new album to promote, the tour seems to stretch into the unremitting horizon without an end in sight.

Complicating matters this time is the fact that three of the band's four members recently became fathers.

"I was the last one to have a kid," Canada proudly reports. "I had a boy two weeks ago."

The extensive "Garage" tour is currently underway. The schedule is heavily weighted toward the band's home turf in Texas and Oklahoma before extending to all four corners of the United States.

But there are no Canadian stops planned just yet.

Will the band be able to maintain its aggressive touring schedule given the drastic change in the members' family dynamics?

"We've got to be more aggressive since we all have one more person to take care of at home. It's going to suck being away from them, but this is what we do for a living."

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