"I really wanted to do a Tom Skinner record," says Cody Canada, frontman and lead singer of Oklahoma's Cody Canada and The Departed. "I've really wanted to make a Merle Haggard record too. I figured we needed to make a record of new originals though."
Still, Canada and company couldn't help but salute a few of their favorites on 3 (due out June 29), the band's fourth studio album since forming in 2010 and first of new material since HippieLovePunk. Here, they offer "Daughter of the Devil," an old tune written by Skinner and Mike McClure, who finds himself in the familiar position as the new album's producer.
"I was talking to Mike about some Skinner songs and he said, 'You know, he and I wrote this tune.' I didn't really remember it," Canada tells Wide Open Country. "I had to sit down and listen to it some more. He had played it on our acoustic Chip and Ray record. I think we were both inebriated by the time that song came up that night."
On the suggestion from McClure, Canada and company--bassist Jeremy Plato and drummer Eric Hansen--decided to give the cautionary tale some Jerry Reed-esque swampy grit, something Skinner always wanted to do to the tune himself. Naturally, the approach fit right in The Departed's wheelhouse.
There's a thick, sweaty and fat thump on "Daughter of the Devil" that just feels natural for the three-piece. Canada's guitar bites and aggressively kicks just as much as his growling rasp while Plato and Hansen lay down a homespun rhythmic foundation. There's plenty of ample elbow room between the trio that feels as though they could jam the laidback groover for a good, long while.
Canada's Refound Sound
That breathing room and familiarity don't just set the tone for "Daughter of the Devil" either. It's the underlying force for the entire album. In more ways than one, 3 often reminds you of Canada and Plato's former band, the pioneering Red Dirt outfit Cross Canadian Ragweed. The addition of McClure (who produced six of CCR's albums) and Canada's newly found embracement of the past seem to the harbinger for The Departed's reinvigorated sound.
"I think I was trying to distance myself without really knowing it," says Canada. "The split of the band was bitter. That had a lot to do with it. I really did let it get the best of me. I shouldn't have done that. We really had a great body of work and I put a lot of time, emotions, history and memories in those songs. I think I was pissed off. When I realized that those songs were a part of me, I realized I was going to start listening to myself again."
Since The Departed's inception in 2010, the band has gone through its fair share of band members, namely the departure of co-founders Seth James, Dave Bowen and Steve Littleton. Naturally, the sound of early albums swayed back and forth with growing pains while trying to figure out what it was going to be. Canada cites their decision to become a three-piece paramount in The Departed's development.
"When it finally got down to a three-piece, I called Mike saying that this is what it needed to be," says Canada. "In all honesty, Ragweed was a three-piece. We had two guys playing the same rhythm parts. That's nothing derogatory towards anybody. It was really kind of a three-piece sound. I realized that I do have a certain sound and need to get back to it instead of trying to change it. I think I tried to change it a few times."
There's a vintage feel and vibe on 3 that hasn't been heard in years. While the vast majority of albums cut by Canada and company have been destination records, The Departed recorded 3 close to their New Braunfels, Texas home base, at The Zone in Dripping Springs.
"I haven't really had this much fun since we did the Mission California record. It's had that same lived in feeling. It felt like we lived there during this album even if we were sleeping on our own beds at night," says Canada.
Canada and McClure often finished songs together on the project. One would come in with half and let the other take a stab at it. Still, there wasn't a rush with 3. They began recording 3 last June and wrapped up in December. Canada says taking their time recording the album helped the creative process, mentioning that five more songs were finished within the six month period. The relaxed recording sessions were approached very much like a show or live album.
"It was really like putting on an old pair of shoes," says Canada. "That first day, it's always loose. By the second though, it really started rolling like we were when we made our best records."