Arts Desk

J. Roddy Walston Gets Down to Business

jroddywalstonJ. Roddy Walston & The Business
Fairfax/Vagrant

J. Roddy Walston is from Tennessee, but he and his band, The Business, split time between Baltimore and Richmond. They also split time between tiresome arena bombast and infectious, smirking boogie-woogie. The group's self-titled record—its first on a label; 2007's Hail Mega Boys was a self-release—comes out today and does its best to make peace between these competing impulses.

Recorded on tape at Sound City Studios in L.A.—the way the old-timers used to do it, remember?—the disc features 10 testes-throttling tracks, the first of which is the best and the last of which steals the drum figure from "When the Levee Breaks" under lyrics like "I'm a first-class phony." Walston's allegiance to a rock 'n' roll gold standard, though, doesn't necessarily make him a "phony." The slyness of his vocal delivery—a little Dr. John in the lower register, a little Jack White in the upper—tells you he knows what he's doing and that maybe he'll do it even better on the next record. (That vocal approach also makes his lyrics sound wittier than they are.) "Used to Did" is a very sexy track; "Don't Get Old" has a nice shimmy and makes a good point too many times; "Brave Man's Death," the closest thing to a dark song, has some good Cash-style lyrics. And that first track, the single? It's called "Don't Break the Needle," and threatens to do so.

The songs are relentless in a good way, the record as a whole relentless in a bad way. It's sort of like Speed: someone told Roddy that if he slowed down, the whole thing would fall apart. Eventually the squall of his voice and the above-average riffs can't accommodate the repetition. It's really good beer-pong music, though.

Walston can't play piano like Jerry Lee Lewis, but he knows it and doesn't really try to. The appeal of the band inheres in the practically vaudevillian coyness of the piano's solo moments set against hard-edged guitar lines and able drum breaks. (Though I sometimes wonder if the bassist gets bored.) Oh, and the shout-alongs. (I've heard these referred to as "gang-choruses," and man, that term has never been more apt.)

First track below. Don't spill your beer.

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  • Skibum89

    Clearly, this journalist has never heard the band play live; the fast paced record is best delivered in concert. I would argue that J Roddy delivers a memorable and exciting performance, which is enhanced by the fast paced tracks this reviewer seems to criticize.

    I appreciate the author's point that this band has a way to go in terms of honing their sound and style. In acknowledging that fact, I guess Ted forgot that J Roddy IS a newcomer. Therefore, it's important to remember the potential for this band to evolve, instead of reducing a debut to a cliche.

  • This Guy

    Ted Scheinman is a NERD!!!

  • Kenny

    The lyric in question on "Use Your Language" is "I'm a first-class forty" - as in "first-class forty-acre man" - not "first-class phony." Thanks.

  • First Class Phony

    Yo TedO.

    Great Beerpong Music? You probably also think that Ratt was an amazing stage show that rocked the pillars of heaven.

    In aggreance with skibum, go and check these guys out live, I stood about 4 ft from the horn and about 4 ft from J. Roddy while he was destroying his stool while rockin on the baby grand. I can tell you this. One of my top shows I have ever been to.

    As far as a bored bassist... are YOU kidding me!? He rocks that $#!T like John Deacon from Queen.

    If you review music, do yourself a favor and protect your job security. Listen to the music you are reviewing.

    I'm fired up to hear some new rock that harks back to the old days, but doesn't sound like it is.

    hack.

  • Jesse

    I've never even seen these guys live, but have to back up everything everybody's commented here. Hope nobody's giving Mr. Ted too much respect these days...

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