Cross Canadian Ragweed purposefully blends big, crunchy rock guitars, crisp acoustic strumming, accessible melodies, and insightful lyrics, rendered with Texas-sized heart and an endearing mean streak

Cross Canadian Ragweed purposefully blends big, crunchy rock guitars, crisp acoustic strumming, accessible melodies, and insightful lyrics, rendered with Texas-sized heart and an endearing mean streak just about as big. The act's Nashville-label debut is a hell of a ride, full of unexpected turns and pleasant surprises all along. The rip-roaring road song "Anywhere But Here" and hometown blues cut "17" show style and personality, and chief singer/songwriter/guitarist Cody Canada impresses with his portrayal of a Deadhead American hero in "Brooklyn Kid." Things turn mean quickly, though: "Don't Need You" seethes with vitriol underneath monster guitars, and "Walls of Huntsville" is a classic murder rave-up. Even with all the suicide, cuttin', shootin', cussin', smokin', and drinkin' references, this CCR also has a winning way with tender, melodic ballads like "Broken" and "On a Cloud," then it showcases a surprisingly effective everyman gospel on "Carry You Home." It's capped off with a pulsing, mystical battle anthem in "Freedom," wrapping up one of the best albums of the year.—RW

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