From deep in the heart of Texas rise the Texas Hippie Coalition: the forefathers of red dirt metal. This month the band, affectionately known to its fans as THC, released its third studio album. Front man, vocalist and all-around rock ‘n roll bad ass, Big Dad Ritch took time out to update the Examiner on the new album, “Peacemaker”; as well as his thoughts on Johnny Cash, Pantera, the state of this great nation, and the band’s forthcoming concert in Boise with Lynyrd Skynyrd.
The THC sound encompasses everything from the groove metal of Pride & Glory and Pantera, to the edgy southern rock of ZZ Top and Lynyrd Skynyrd, to outlaw heroes like Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash. All of these elements and more combine with THC’s signature style to create what’s come to be known as “red dirt metal”.
Down in Texas and Oklahoma artists like Stoney LaRue, Kevin Fowler, and Cross Canadian Ragweed have developed a style that’s come to be known as red dirt music. For THC, playing on bills with such bands and often being the only hard rock or metal act, the group developed its own loyal following even among the bands they were performing with. Those same bands dubbed the quartet “red dirt metal”. “It’s just good old storytelling, outlaw music,” offers Ritch. “We wear that red dirt badge with honor.”
“Peacemaker”, a review of which can be read here, marks the band’s first album with new drummer Tim Braun and guitarist Wes Wallace, joining Ritch and bassist John Exall. It also marks the first time that the band entered the studio without restriction.
“With this album, already having defined who we are, we decided we had set up some barbed wires, and we decided to cut those barbed wires down and make this a full open range album. The main thing about this album is we did not want to have any boundaries at all. We wanted to make sure that we expanded and approached it in a way that would be larger than the first two albums.”
The band also tapped into Bob Marlette who just finished producing the new Lynyrd Skynyrd album and has also worked with the likes of Alice Cooper, Black Sabbath, Black Stone Cherry and Shinedown. According to Ritch, working with Marlette helped the band achieve its goal of expanding the THC sound.
“Bob was big-time on the arrangements and was a great help with composition. Oh man, he is a great songwriter. He has wonderful ideas. Bob hears everything. He already knows where the song’s going, what’s gonna happen next — he just helps us get all the stuff that we have that might’ve been just a little scattered out, a little out of place,and he just kind of helped us make sure that everything was in a nice neat package.”
I appealed to Big Dad’s patriotic nature and asked him what was currently getting under his skin about the state of the nation.
“You know what’s got me pissed off and mad about it,” Rich laughed, alluding to a song title from the band’s previous album “Rollin’”, “I don’t understand how the regular man, the hard workers out here– if we get into a bind there’s no bailout. There’s no way out for us. There’s no hand out to grab a hold of us and pick us up. But if you’re a humongous company. If you’re just larger-than-life and you fail, then the nation fails; and I don’t see it that way. I don’t see how if a company no matter how large it is, even if it was Coca-Cola, how [it failing] destroys every home in America. Every home in America is being destroyed by saving these companies that made mistakes. I think Wall Street’s getting away with murder. It’s upsetting and disappointing and I try not to talk about politics for the very reason that I might have a heart attack.”
You can listen to the full 30 minute interview with Ritch at left as he talks about the impact of the band’s new members, the story behind the hit single “Turn It Up”, his love for Vinnie Paul, and as well as his thoughts on the Pantera reunion rumor-buzz with Zakk Wylde. Turn it up and getcha’ pull.
Texas Hippie Coalition will join Lynyrd Skynyrd and Shooter Jennings this fall for select Pacific Northwest concert appearances including Boise at the Idaho Events Center in Nampa.
Music is the universal language, speak it loudly!
Rustyn Rose is a veteran music journalist who owns and operates Metalholic Magazine and Metalholic Radio.