Cross Canadian Ragweed

Mission California

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While some critics seem to have fun playing the "name that genre" game with Cross Canadian Ragweed's music (is it country? alt-country? arena rock?), on Mission California, their fourth studio album for Universal South, the Oklahoma foursome make it clear that, the Drive-By Truckers notwithstanding, they may be the last great Southern rock band still stomping the boards. What makes Cross Canadian Ragweed noble inheritors of the great Southern rock tradition is their clear belief in the Boogie; it's hardly the only thing they can do, but the rollicking clatter of the opener, "Record Exec," has a swagger few bands could conjure these days, and the litany of good and bad ideas "I Believe You," the edgy road story "Walls to Climb," and the fourth-gear celebration of excess "Smoke Another" capture a head-bobbing groove that would have sounded just fine in a packed arena in the mid-'70s (and for this sort of stuff, that's a compliment). It's enough to make you wish that the band had kicked out a few more jams of this caliber on Mission California; while most of the songs here are fine indeed, Cross Canadian Ragweed ease back on the rock more often than is good for them, and though the high-attitude "Dead Man," the homage to one great waitress "Soul Agent," and the backhanded celebration of their home state "In Oklahoma" are good enough that you don't mind the lower impact, the best rockers are good enough that you miss the big beat while it takes a break. Still, Cross Canadian Ragweed still write 'em and play 'em like heroes on Mission California, and folks who dig big rock and big twang will like this just fine.

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