Stoney LaRue and Cody Canada

Stoney LaRue

Stoney LaRue makes real-life, thinking man's music.

Seriously, how many other singer-songwriters would say this kind of thing about their own output: "You have to be careful about what you put out there and what you sing about, because it's a little like the Laws of Attraction," LaRue says. "You've either lived it or written about it, or you're writing about it and you're gonna."

So much country music today chases inexact images of imaginary roads leading to nowhere, allegedly ambling a pickup truck down dusty roads to some idealized, nonexistent party.

The Texas native-turned-longtime Oklahoma resident has been chasing his own dream down many roads for a long time. He's hit the occasional pothole that sidelined him for awhile, never veering from his internal call to chronicle life's ups and downs.

"I've always been motivated by and came up under the style of old Woody Guthrie songs," LaRue says. "It's always been about talking to the people."

Hence you have the laid-back, conversational style found on Stoney LaRue's newest album project, AVIATOR, his debut for eOne Entertainment.

Don't be fooled...LaRue has lit up and burned down a honky-tonk a time or two, becoming a Red Dirt/Texas Music circuit mainstay known for high-energy shows, and that intensity is found on AVIATOR as well, on tracks like "It's Too Soon", "Golden Shackles" and an album ending "Studio A JAM" not to be missed.

But its tunes like "First One To Know," the opener "One And Only" and the vivid, memory-filled title track that give AVIATOR it's thread, trying to find a path amidst loss and life changes, redemption and reinvention.
"The theme is, essentially, following direction, trusting in yourself, and new beginnings," LaRue says. "A lot of it is spurred from divorce and open-eyed ways of looking at things, be it relationships or just the world as a whole."

But while AVIATOR was crafted at the tail end of some personal upheaval, Larue took comfort and energy from re-teaming with creative partners from previous projects, such as songwriter Mando Saenz and the producers of his last studio record Velvet, veteran hit makers Frank Liddell and Mike McCarthy.

The term "organic" gets used far too frequently in music today, but it's hard to find a more apt one to describe Liddell, McCarthy and LaRue's process making AVIATOR. From recording analog on two-inch tape, to one-take performances by world-class studio musicians gathered as a band, AVIATOR's tracks crackle with an energy you're only going to find from hard-fought teamwork forged in the studio.

It's a process LaRue knows runs counter to the "record today, release later today" modern day music business machine. "I understand it, that people want the product and artists want to get it out there as soon as possible," he notes. "But that kind of goes against what the natural way of letting art happen."

And there's art to be found on AVIATOR, be it the cheeky shuffle found on "Moving On," the delicate weave of piano and pedal steel meshing memories on "Still Running," the churning pulse of "Spitfire" turning onto the two-stepping moment found on "Million Dollar Blues” and Stoney's honoring of one of his heroes on "Natural High".

"It was worth every moment we spent, and there's stuff going on here that makes me think, 'This is the way music is supposed to be recorded,'" LaRue continues.

The rooted-in-tradition nature of making AVIATOR has spun off into LaRue's live performances as well. He tells a story of a recent gig in Longview, Texas, where he spoke to a man at the venue who had seen LaRue (and everything else you can see at a bar) a time or two.

"He told me, 'I've heard you since you first started. I just turned 64. What I heard tonight was a more refined Stoney, and I thought to myself, "I can connect with what he's saying",'" LaRue says. "I like the ability to connect with people at any age, whether it might be sonically or to the depth of what they're willing to think. I like to think, and I like for people to think. It's a little bit of a lost art these days.

"I want that human element to still be apparent in my writing," he continues. "Whenever we're on stage, I notice that people, rather than just standing there swaying back and forth; it's more of an experience show than it is dance hall music.

"I've noticed that some people dance, some people stand there and listen, some mouths are open, and some heads are bowed. Everybody experiences it differently."
But while a lot of thought, care, consideration and skill has been put into the making of AVIATOR, don't ask Stoney LaRue what Stoney LaRue sounds like. One, it'll bring on a certain amount of brain freeze, and two, he wants you to think through it yourself.

"I'd say its a little combination of rootsy rock, country, folk, and whatever else is in the hodge podge, and separate as much of the pride and ego from it, and put it in a format that's easy to listen to," LaRue eventually concedes. "But I don't think the listener can get it in a 20-second format. I don't think they'd get it in a day. It's one of those things that has to be word-of-mouth and experienced themselves.

"As far as the listener is concerned, that's who it's for," LaRue continues. "The music came out of me for a reason, and it's not supposed to be just for me. I want to share it with as many people as possible. If I've done that, then they have the option to embrace it or put it down. I just want it to be available to them."

So take your nearest available audio device -- queue up the playlist or pop in that CD -- put your thinkin' shades on and spin up AVIATOR. Stoney LaRue wants you to find yourself in it...yourself.

Cody Canada

Cody Canada was 16 years old when he made his way from Yukon to Stillwater, Oklahoma. He had been searching for some inspiration; a place to call home musically. What he found was a creative nirvana of musicians who were generating the music that would stay with him for the rest of his life. "It was like the greatest place on earth, " Cody recalls. "I met Tom Skinner, Scott Evans, Bob Childers, Jimmy LaFave, the Red Dirt Rangers and they were all playing this really, really good music. It was kind of in that same vibe as the Allman Brothers and The Band. But what came out of it was really diverse. There were more country acts like Jason Boland. The All American Rejects were the rock guys. Then you had the whole Red Dirt hippie thing…I didn't even know what Red Dirt was until somebody told me. I got turned on to it all and it's stayed with me ever since."

During the 15 years that Canada was front man for Cross Canadian Ragweed, he successfully tapped into those influences on each of their nine albums. Four of those nine charted on Billboard's Top 10 Country Albums over the course of the years, thousands of albums were sold and the band played to sell out crowds across the country helping to spread "red dirt" music. But the one thing that Canada wanted to do in honor of his musical heartland never came to fruition…until now.

In the wake of Cross Canadian Ragweed's decision to part ways, Cody resurfaced with an armament of musicians and a mission in mind. With his long time Ragweed band mate, Jeremy Plato (bass) the two made a seamless transition into the world of The Departed, as in 'Cody Canada and The Departed". "We kicked around several ideas for names," Canada said. "We're all from different bands and we wanted something to sound like we came from different places. The Departed was right on the money." Along with Canada and Plato, The Departed rounds out with Seth James on guitar (Seth James Band, Ray Wylie Hubbard), Steve Littleton on B3 organ and keys (Live Oak Decline, Stoney LaRue & the Arsenals, Medicine Show) and Dave Bowen on drums (Stoney LaRue, Bleu Edmondson, Dale Watson).

Because they have traveled in the same circles for years, the band members are all familiar with each other and familiar with each other's style of playing. More than likely they've all played on the same stage at one time or another already. It's this familiarity with each other that made their first project so uncomplicated. Although The Departed is writing and will record original material, the band's first priority was getting into the studio and cutting the Oklahoma tribute album that Cody had been wanting to do for years. The result is This Is Indian Land, The Departed's debut album set for release this spring.

This Is Indian Land is a 15-track deep "buffet of really kick-ass Okie songs," Canada states. He jokingly says "It might sound like originals because not many people have ever heard these songs". But in fact, the album is loaded with well-known selections like Kevin Welch's "Kickin' Back in Amsterdam" and "True Love Never Dies", JJ Cale's "If You're Ever in Oklahoma" and Rock and Roll Hall-of-Famer Leon Russell's "Home Sweet Oklahoma".

Of course there were a few tracks picked for more personal reasons. Cody notes, "'The Ballad of Rosalie' (Randy Pease) was the first song I ever heard in Stillwater. 'Little Rain Will Do' (Greg Jacobs) is just an awesome historical song I've been wanting to record since the first time I heard it. Randy Crouch's 'Face On Mars' really kind of frightened us. A lot of people wanted us to do it but we didn't know what to do with it. We sat there for a whole day trying to get it arranged and find a groove for it. We made it happen and it's one of my favorites on the album".

This Is Indian Land was recorded at Yellow Dog Studios in Austin, TX. As if the album content and inspiration weren't Oklahoma enough for The Departed, Yellow Dog Studios and owner Dave Percefull got their start in Tulsa. "It really kind of tied it all together," Cody says. "I walked in and saw all the pictures of these Stillwater guys hanging on the wall and thought 'Man, this is exactly where this album needs to be cut".

Cody Canada & The Departed is already making waves on the road. With the recording of the album behind them and a brand new year in front, the band has hit the road like only professionals know how to do. As excited as they are about their gigs, they are taking it all very seriously. "It's funny because with Ragweed we got to a point where we didn't have to practice. We were playing so many shows we could just get up there and do the tunes, right? Well now it's a new band playing new songs so we've got to learn everything, get our game together and practice. It's a whole lot of fun. I can't sleep at night. It keeps me awake, not from worry but from excitement. We're just ready to tear it up."

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