CD Review – The Departed “Adventus”
Adventus is the official coming out party for The Departed, an arrival, but the soft opening has been going on since Cross Canadian Ragweed disbanded a couple of years ago. The Departed played 200+ shows during that time, but they’re just now releasing a record of original material (last year’s This Is Indian Land covered Oklahoma songwriters). As the payoff for waiting, we get a fully realized album, a fine record of Texas/Red Dirt rock. In my view, it’s one of the best of 2012. While there are shades of Ragweed (or, better put, Canadian), this is not Cross Canadian Ragweed redux. This is something new, something better.
Straight out of the gate, the band billed themselves as Cody Canada and The Departed, but the Adventus cover just says The Departed. While you still see references to Cody Canada and The Departed, there seems to be a subtle shift from a front man/backing band arrangement to something more like an ensemble. Canada is still the mover behind this group in many ways, but he’s not the only one. Roughly half the tracks on Adventus have Seth James as lead singer (former Ragweed bass player Jeremy Plato sings one and there is one instrumental). The band is rounded out by the excellent (and well-deployed) keyboards of Steve Littleton as well as the solid (and big) drums of Chris Doege.
What to say about the sound of the record? For someone like me, who leans singer-songwriter, country, and acoustic, but comes from a rock background, it’s a welcome change, a bit of a palette cleanser. It’s certainly not a quiet, laid back record. Fans of heavier stuff are going to like its guitars and drums and voices. Canada’s songs remind us of Ragweed, though they’re a bit more complex, definitely more mature. He’s got that voice, the voice of Ragweed as we knew it (and loved it), and that unique way of phrasing (both as a singer and a songwriter), that is difficult to describe but unmistakable. Seth James’s offerings are a bit more straight ahead blues rock. He even goes gospel rock on a couple of tracks. His vocals and guitar work are clean and clear, very strong. The Seth James sound is the big change from Ragweed to The Departed.
Jeremy Plato deserves a mention here. Besides bringing a solid bass to the group, his vocals are good, even if they are sometimes overshadowed by the other two lead singers. I played the record a couple of times for my youngest son on the way to school last week (he’s 10 and a bit of a music buff). Yesterday as we were riding together, I played 250,000 Things, Canada’s touching ode to patient kids who wait on absent fathers for that day when nothing else matters but the kids. Being absent a bit myself, I wanted J.M. to hear the song and realize that I’m not the only one who’s often gone. After listening to the song and hearing the sign off by (presumably) a Canada kid, he’s like, that’s good, Dad, but put it on number 6. I did, and as I drive down the road, he’s singing along with Plato on his song (Hobo). “I like the other guys but this is my favorite song.” Okay then.
When I discovered Ragweed years ago, I dug their energy and joie de vivre. Over the years, they changed a bit, less the college party band, more a serious rock band. Now it’s easy to see The Departed as the place Canada was going. And he has arrived. Adventus is well worth a listen and The Departed are well worth going out of your way to see live when you get the chance. I plan to.
Adventus was released November 13 on Underground Sound.
[A word about the Adventus cover photo, from the band’s website: “The picture was taken by Carl Dunn. He shot it at his first Led Zeppelin concert that he was allowed to shoot up close. The concert was in Ft. Worth and the show was SO loud that some of the cops working security started putting bullets in their ears as ear plugs. Petter Grant, Zeppelin’s manager saw this and wanted Carl to shoot the picture to which he was going to add the caption “FIRE”. He sent this image as well as five others to Jimmy Page. They didn’t end up using the photo all those years ago and we are lucky enough to call Carl a great friend and have the opportunity to use this great image.”]