Cross Canadian Ragweed

Soul Gravy

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AllMusic Review by

Cross Canadian Ragweed doesn't need to take a lot of risks on Soul Gravy, keeping their stellar rep as a crack touring/bar band in mind and sticking close to their Southern rock and Texas singer/songwriter influences. Mike McClure is a sure hand behind the board -- Cody Canada's engaging regular guy delivery is never lacquered in studio syrup, and his electric guitar leads always crackle with life. The understated sonics of "Lonely Girl" are of a piece with "Sick and Tired," which features Lee Ann Womack on harmony vocals; both songs just seem like a loud band turning down its amps and switching over to the clean channel for a minute. Naturally, "Hammer Down" is that loud band, driven forward by a care-to-the-wind story line and some ripping guitar work, as is the bottle-smashing racket of "Wanna Rock & Roll," which CCR (?) wants you to know was written by Ray Wylie Hubbard. The little acoustic gem "Flowers" serves as a sort of set break, but it also features one of Canada's best couplets in the line "You bring me up/I bring you down/I bring you flowers/It brings you around." Other standouts include the dobro-flecked honky tonk of "Down," as well as a new, more powerfully recorded version of "Alabama," which unapologetically crosses Southern rock sensibilities with crunchy arena rock chording. Soul Gravy isn't much for pacing, but the songwriting and playing is uniformly solid, whether the boys are pulling at your heart strings ("Pay") or riffing on Texas' musical traditions ("Cold Hearted Woman"; the blues-tinged "Too Far Gone"). Overall it's a fun ride, both for longtime fans and the new ones Universal South's promotional push should make them. [Initial helpings of Gravy included a raucous DVD of a concert in College Station, TX.]

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