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Smoking metal

Texas Hippie Coalition unholsters its peacemaker



You don't have to stretch your imagination to imagine Big Dad Ritch as a wrestler's ring persona. The large, bearded, tattooed Texoma native looks like Charlie Daniels by way of David Allan Coe, and his band, Texas Hippie Coalition, doesn't quite match the granola-crunching intimations of its name. They channel the menacing spirit of Pantera with a subtle roots undercurrent they call Red Dirt Metal.

THC (the acronym is intentional) has toured with everyone from Coe to Cross Canadian Ragweed to Black Label Society, conveying a mutt-like mix of outlaw country, Southern rawk and ball-busting bottom-end. Bands like Clutch inspired a power-groove mentality, while Ritch's indigenous Texas roots run toward Cash, Waylon and Willie. Even as a child, music went hand-in-hand with putting on a show.

"As a little kid I used to run around the house, and my entrance music was [Nazareth's] 'Hair of the Dog.' So I'd run into the living room beating up on everybody and going, 'Now you're messing with a sonofabitch,'" Ritch recalls with a hearty guffaw.

Though he's loved music most of his life — having seen Pantera and Clutch collectively more than 100 times — it took personal trauma for him to take the plunge. Previously, Ritch had been working as a fishing guide and operating a mixed martial arts entertainment company he describes as "a bottom-shelf UFC," when things began to unravel.

"I ended up being single after being with this girl for a few years, and when I got single I sold my fishing tour company, sold my wrestling company, and just started making music," says Ritch. "It was, 'If this is going to be Fuck It, let's make it all capital letters.'"

Early THC releases like 2008's Pride of Texas and 2010's Rollin' are brimming with Southern outlaw metal. It's a surprisingly diverse mix, ranging from power ballads with an echo of Mötley Crüe ("Groupie Girl") to groove-laden metal boogie ("Cocked and Loaded"). And then there's radio-ready hard rock, such as the new single, "Turn It Up."

The track, about a successful stripper, reached the lower regions of the Texas Radio Top 50, and sets the stage for the release of the band's new album, Peacemaker, which was produced by Bob Marlette of Black Sabbath and Alice Cooper fame. Ritch reckons the album is a lot like its predecessors, only more so.

"What we're doing is exploring all the boundaries. We're going to take you deeper into the canyon, to a deeper, darker place. I want to keep that Southern sound that ZZ Top brings to the table, but also want to give it that power groove that another great Texas band, Pantera, brings to the table."

While this is the band's first appearance locally, Ritch says he's passed through here before. "I have been to Colorado Springs," he notes, "but only to purchase weed."

Ritch doesn't take too many things seriously, apart from making music. After giving up its pursuit to chase women and money, he's back on track.

"You know that girl you didn't take care of as well as you shoulda, and then you don't ever see her again?" asks Ritch. "This lady we call music, I want to make damn sure I treat her right. Because I don't want her walking out on me."

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