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Ragweed shoots for mainstream

Its 'bona-fide' lead singer is hoping for some radio airplay

Cross Canadian Ragweed gave its new album undivided attention.
Cross Canadian Ragweed gave its new album undivided attention.
Butch Adams, Universal

Cross Canadian Ragweed has all the tools to be a major player in the music world. The band has several outstanding albums under its belt, and its rowdy live shows are even better than the CDs.

Then there is lead singer Cody Canada who — with his voice, guitar playing and good looks — is a bona-fide rock star in waiting.

What Ragweed doesn't have is a lot of mainstream radio airplay. The boys from Oklahoma hope that will change with their new release, "Mission California."

"If (mainstream radio) doesn't like it, then I don't know what else they want," said drummer Randy Ragsdale. "(Radio airplay) is not our ultimate goal. But if they're ever going to do it, this would be the one to do it."

Longtime fans will find rockin' roadhouse songs that sound as if they were lifted off the "Purple," "Soul Gravy" or "Garage" albums. Such songs as "Record Exec," "Deal," "In Oklahoma" and "Smoke Another" combine the guitars of Canada and Grady Cross with the driving rhythm section of Ragsdale and bassist Jeremy Plato.

"Dead Man" finds Canada not mincing words as he sings about his own sister with whom he has had a severe falling-out, and he bluntly tells her to "get out of my life."

The deeply personal lyrics continue in "The Years," Canada's life story retold in a four-minute, 25-second mid-tempo roots rocking song destined to become a setlist regular. "That's a good one," Ragsdale said. "That's kind of like the Cliffs Notes of his life story. It's kind of cool to hear it from him."

"Walls to Climb" and hidden track "Right Path" are two more personal songs.

But not all of the lyrics on "Mission Canada" deal specifically with Canada's life. One of the most haunting songs is the slower paced country-flavored "Lawrence," one of Ragsdale's favorites off the new album, and one that also features longtime Ragweed friend LeeAnn Womack.

The song tells the story of a homeless family the band spotted last December on the streets of Lawrence, Kan. The father was playing a guitar and his wife a tambourine while passers-by donated loose change. Sitting nearby was the couple's 1-year-old son. "They seemed like they should be unhappy, but they didn't seem like they were. Cody was singing for the kid because he couldn't say anything for himself.

"The song tells the story from the kid's point of view. It's one of the better songs on the record. It finished way different than how it started."

The 14-track CD also includes covers by Chris Knight ("Cry Lonely") and Todd Snider ("I Believe In You"), as well as what Ragweed calls the band's first "pop" song, "NYCG."

The monthlong recording session for "Mission California" took place outside of San Diego. Recording away from home for the first time worked to the band's benefit, according to Ragsdale, because they were able to give the album their undivided attention.

"What I like most is not being able to stop in the middle of recording and play a bunch of gigs and then come back. We can stay on track and make the record," Ragsdale said. "Getting far away, where, if the fence blows down, I can't come home and fix it."