Saturday, December 14, 2013

J. Roddy Walston & the Business at the Gramercy Theatre

J. Roddy Walston grew up listening to gospel and country music, and sang in his church in Cleveland, Tennessee. His maternal grandmother, a country music artist loosely affiliated with the Grand Old Opry, taught him how to play piano and guitar, but often grieved his desire to rock and roll. He recorded a demo tape in his basement, and the songs trumped 350 contestants to win a showcase in a national festival in 2002. He then formed a band, J. Roddy Walston & the Business. Two years later, the band recorded its first EP and relocated to Baltimore, Maryland, because Walston’s then-girlfriend (and now wife) began studying opera at the Peabody Conservatory of Music there. The Walstons now live in Richmond, Virginia. The band’s third album, 2013’s Essential Tremors, is also the common name of a nervous-system disorder that frequently causes Walston’s hands to shake. J. Roddy Walston & the Business presently consists of Walston on vocals and piano, Billy Gordon on guitar, Logan Davis on bass and Steve Colmus on drums.

J. Roddy Walston & the Business relived some of rock and roll’s roots at the Gramercy Theatre tonight. Occasionally, Walston played guitar, but mostly he sat at a rich-sounding 1970s-era upright piano; it is a 300-pound monster, but Roddy insists on bringing it on tour because he refuses to play electronic keyboards. As he sang into the microphone, swinging his head so that his long hair covered his face, his fingers pounded the piano keys so hard that they forced him to be lifted up off his seat. The band fed off his energy, delivering a loose but incendiary backup so intense that it felt like it was approaching chaos. Roddy sang with a scrappy Leon Russell-styled southern honesty; he loves this stuff from deep in his soul and he communicated that love earnestly to the audience. Roddy’s songs were melodic compositions with memorable hooks, perhaps too ragged for pop radio but, much like Andrew WK, ideal for a sweaty beer keg party. The music fluidly melted together timeless elements of blues, boogie, soul and rock and roll swagger. Yes, Walston and his band’s visit to the New York meant that some serious business was going down on stage.

J. Roddy Walston & the Business will be among the opening acts for the Red Hot Chili Peppers at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn on February 1. Visit J. Roddy Walston & the Business at www.jroddywalstonandthebusiness.com.