James Richard Anderson, better known as Big Dad Ritch, the growling lead singer for Texas Hippie Coalition, is as much of a country boy as he is a metal head. As far as he’s concerned, his band, formed in Denison and perhaps the most successful North Texas metal act currently touring the States, is more than metal. It’s red dirt metal.
Driving his group’s 15-passenger van through “some wild New York traffic” on his way to a show in Poughkeepsie, he says he can't remember who eactly came up with the term "red dirt metal." It was either Texas country singer Kevin Fowler or Oklahoma’s Cody Canada of Cross Canadian Ragweed – a band he still loves and fondly remembers playing shows with before it’s 2010 break-up.
Ritch says his music speaks to “the rodeo and ranch cowboys with AC/DC albums mixed in with their George Strait and Garth Brooks CDs." His band consists of “a guitar player from a speed metal band, a drummer from a country band, a bass player who idolizes Mötley Crüe and a lead singer that worships Johnny Cash, Willie and Waylon.”
THC is a favored act for a number of metal-intensive tours and festivals, such as the annual national Rockstar Mayhem Fest, Rocklahoma, and also this year’s Rock on the Range in Ohio and the River City Rockfest in San Antonio. All of those bills feature a gauntlet of modern metal headliners such as Avenged Sevenfold, old school greats like the Scorpions and just about everything in between, including the recently reunited At the Drive-In.
The band’s new record, Dark Side of Black, busts with powerful aggression normally identified with metal. Yet the record successfully presents it with a mix of speeds and styles. The band recorded it Lewisville at Boot Hill Studios, produced by former Pantera engineer Sterling Winfield.
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No one will ever confuse THC for the honky-tonk style of Randy Rogers Band or Jason Boland, but “Knee Deep” is as twangy of a hard-rock tune as you’ll ever hear. It has the kind of singalong power that cheap whiskey is made for. But more prominent than the hint of outlaw spirit, there’s a thick groove imposing its will throughout the song. The rest of the album is equally forceful; the iconic power metal swagger is every bit as Texan as Willie Nelson’s secondhand pot smoke.
In “Shakin’ Baby,” THC unapologetically mashes its Dimebag Darrell-shaped pedal to the Southern metal. “The groove Pantera put into power metal and in our songs is what makes people bang their heads, and is what brings so many pretty girls to see such an ugly band play,” says Ritch.
Released on April 22, the album has proven to be a relative success, with Anderson estimating sales of over 5,000 records in the first week. To that end, Darker Side of Black debuted at No. 6 on Billboard’s U.S. Hard Rock Albums chart and No. 2 on Billboard’s Heatseekers chart. But nice first-week chart spots only go so far, and the band is basically playing six nights a week. But no matter where it plays, or how many records it sells, Texas Hippie Coalition is convinced its brand of rock is one that can’t be mistaken for any other style.
“It’s not like there was a line we had to get in to become a red dirt metal band,” Anderson says. “And I don’t know if anyone can really get in line behind us, because we don’t play Red Dirt metal as much as we are Red Dirt Metal.”