The Departed – “ADVENTUS”

“Canada and co. dig deep and emerge with an album and a sound that transcends classification.”

by Tango Sho’Nuff

The Departed have arrived.  No time to waste discussing the past, no more obligatory paragraphs about Ragweed, no back story about the formation of the band, if you need to play catch up, use Google or YouTube.  After almost two full years of touring, writing, recording, and more touring…”Adventus” is here, and we finally get to properly hear what The Departed are truly about.

I feel obligated to say this, and I’ll do so now…this record isn’t for everyone.   And unless you are already a fan, I doubt you’ll be exposed to it very often cause country radio ain’t touching this with a ten foot pole.  I’m not even convinced that Rock radio will get it either.  For every person that listens and gets hooked, there will be 2 that are just left confused as hell.  No room for sugar-coating here people…this is the type of record that draws a very bold line in the sand.  If you are a fan of country radio, this record will most likely not appeal to you.  This is an album made by people who believe in music as art, not product.  Unless something drastic has changed since the last time I tuned into a “Nashville” themed station, I can only assume that the majority of songs in the Top 20 are still a combination of pop fluff, faux ‘rock’ riff drivel, and lyrical content akin to a beer commercial.    I’m not trying to be snobby or hateful, if the extent of your musical taste begins and ends with songs about back roads, cold beer, trucks and half-naked hick-town hookers…more power to you.  However, this album is for the people who want to be moved by music on a deeper level.  It would be easier to just come out and say that The Departed are a rock band, but even that could be mis-construed.  Let’s face it, rock radio isn’t exactly a great choice if you’re looking to hear actual rock music.

It would even be a safe bet to say some of the Red Dirt/Texas Country scenesters aren’t going to be able to process “Adventus” right off the bat, because one listen front to back amply demonstrated to me the glaring fact that Cody Canada and Co. have clearly outgrown the genre.  No, “Adventus” is, to be brutally honest…too good for radio.  This is real rock music played with passion and conviction, something most music fans aren’t even aware still exists.  But that’s not to say there’s not great music being made in this day and age, you just have to dig a little harder to find it.  Those who dig and come across “Adventus” are in for one hell of a treat.

“Adventus” consists of 14 tracks, with the lead vocal duties pretty evenly split (Canada sings 6, James sings 6, Plato sings one, and one instrumental).  The Departed’s sound is as varied as it is infectious.  Canada’s signature twangy snarl meshes beautifully with James powerful bluesy voice and Plato’s harmony vocals blend well with both of them.  Steve Littleton’s keys and organ work adds depth and character throughout, giving the mellower songs a rich, 3D quality, and some extra muscle to the more rocking tunes.  Throughout the album’s 14 tracks, The Departed effortlessly blend between countless styles, seemingly taking the best elements of rock, r&b, soul, blues, funk and country and meshing them together into a totally new and fresh sound.  But perhaps their most impressive aspect is the ability to do this without it sounding forced, each track flows into the next organically, making for a very interesting and fun listening experience.

If you can’t tell by now, I’m almost at a loss for words with how to best describe The Departed’s sound.  Yes, it indeed harkens back to the glory days of the 70’s, yet doesn’t come across as a throwback or nostalgia act.  It most certainly “rocks”, but in varying degrees, ranging from a ZZ Top/Gov’t Mule like stomp to early 90’s alternative crossed with barn burning blues rock.  There’s still a strong singer-songwriter/Americana vibe throughout and if that’s not enough, it’s all topped off and slathered in deep funky grooves that recall seminal acts like Booker T & the MG’s and The Meters.  Most importantly, it all comes across as authentic.  Even the most bitter, die-hard Ragweed fans who still feel obligated to pine for their return will be hard pressed not to realize the undeniable chemistry and sheer musical force The Departed offer.  Strap in folks, here’s a track by track rundown.

“Worth The Fight” –  Kicking off the disk is this stomping rocker, featuring an uptempo ACDC-ish beat flanked by meaty riffs, dual guitar solos, snarling vocals courtesy of Canada, and an outro riff that sounds like it came straight off a Sabbath record.  Pure rock fury at it’s finest.

“Burden” –  Sang by James, “Burden” crosses an almost Allman Brothers type feel in the verse with a cool call and response vocal in the chorus and a fuzz and wah wah soaked guitar solo.   James’ vocal presence is undeniable, his voice booms with power yet retains a nice character that lends itself to harmonies provided by Plato and even Canada on occasion.

“Prayer For The Lonely” – A strong early standout with an R&B groove straight out of Motown’s early catalog featuring another excellent vocal performance by James and some wicked organ work from Littleton.  There’s literally no one out there writing music like this currently and it is as refreshing as it is shocking coming from 5 white boys from the OK/TX region.

“Blackhorse Mary” – A delightfully unique song that features prominent vocal parts from all 3 vocalists all wrapped up into a sound caught somewhere between Robin Trower and STP.  Melodic and moody, dynamic yet defined, it’s the type of track that takes risks and pays off big time.

“Hard To Find” – Uplifting and funky, this track is southern-fried soul music at it’s finest, garnished with thick guitar tones and deep grooves.  James takes the lead once again backed by Plato in the chorus while Littleton lays down some absolutely infectious clav lines further adding to the funk.

“Hobo” – Here we’re treated to a lead vocal courtesy of Jeremy Plato and he delivers in spades.  The track has a distinct country flavor, from the arrangement down to the lyrical content and is a welcome departure early in the sequence, keeping things fresh and unpredictable.

“Flagpole” – Canada’s vocals are absolutely seething with attitude on this fireball of a rocker.  Pounding drums and driving guitars are juxtaposed with snaking counter melodies and an almost anthemic chorus.  This track will more than appease fans of Ragweed’s earlier slabs of rock goodness.

“Cold Hard Fact” – The Americana factor is in full force on this one.  Acoustic guitars, harmonica and organ swells cross with sparse electric guitar, letting Canada’s vocal and the lyric shine through.  But just when you think  Littleton’s organ is gonna have the last ride out, Canada and James chime in with a glorious lead section brimming with feel and soul.

“Demons” – James serves up a unique hybrid of Honky Tonk Funk on this stellar cut.  The lyrics may be dark, but the groove is downright infectious.  Plato adds some killer harmonies in the chorus before James unleashes a furious fuzz soaked solo.

“Set It Free” – Canada reclaims the mic on this bar-room blues by way of Funkytown.  Beginning with a chromatic funk riff, the arrangement constantly builds upon this foundation adding bluesy fills, an ass shaking bass groove and another strong chorus before seguing into a 2 minute instrumental outro filled with bursts of blues rock heaven.

“Better Get Right” – Seth James takes us to church with this outstanding piece of New Orleans gospel grooveness.  Wah soaked clav, throbbing bass and more fuzzy guitar, this one will be a live favorite for sure.

“250,000 Things” – This is what Cody Canada does best, pour his heart out with complete sincerity, just him and an acoustic guitar.  On an album filled with big, powerful songs with insane musicianship…it takes a song like this to remind you why you ever fell in love with this guy in the first place.  Dig it people.

“Mark It Wrong” – A four-minute instrumental of epic proportions.  One minute it’s as if you’re listening to a classic Stax Record, the next you’re hit with 60’s psychedelic soul, all wrapped up in pulsing rock blasts.  An unexpected treat for sure.

“Sweet Lord” – Closing the record is this breathtakingly beautiful ballad sang gorgeously by James.  Not much else to say about it other than you have to hear it to feel it.  You’ll be hard pressed to find a dry eye in the house if this one is ever performed live.

There you have it folks, a modern classic.  Make no mistake about it, these 14 tracks are simply head and shoulders above 95% of the music being made today.  If “Adventus” is any indication of the future, The Departed have a more than solid chance to reach that upper echelon of legendary acts that seem to cross all musical boundaries and transcend into something you just can’t put your finger on.  And as far as my backhanded comments toward radio and the mainstream music consuming public go…I hope I’m wrong.  No matter how small and petty a thing like this sounds, but with music like this floating through the majority of the airwaves every day…I can guaran-damn-tee you the world would be a better place.  So in closing, if you were a Ragweed fan…this will both surprise and satisfy you.  If music means something to you you really can’t explain…I mean, really inspires you in a way different from just making you want a 6 pack or sing along to some asenine phrase repeatedly…this is something you need to look into.  And lastly, if you long for the days when rock was rock, and good music was just good music, this is what you’ve been looking for.  The Departed have arrived, let’s look to the heavens and pray they never leave.

10/10 stars