ESSENTIAL TREMORS, ATO RECORDS
Imagine a packed concert hall – you walk towards centre stage, sit down at your piano and just as you press down on that first key, you’re hands begin to tremble. These uninvited convulsions are a constant reality for J. Roddy Walston. The frontman for J. Roddy Walston & The Business suffers from a nervous system disorder that makes his hands shake, sometimes wildly. This is the inspiration behind the name of their new LP, Essential Tremors. Walston decided to let his illness inspire his music and create an album aiming to embrace weirdness rather than hide it in your pockets.
For those of you who’ve never heard of these Cleveland indie-roots rockers, shame on your ears. Picture Jerry Lee Louis, the Sheepdogs and Kings of Leon jumbled in all the best ways. There’s no question that this is a J. Roddy album. He’s back with his burningly ragged and raw vocals while the Business is riotous as ever with their explosive, southern-rooted sound.
Known for catchy and upbeat tunes, Essential Tremors stays true to the band’s sound while taking a few risks. The first track, “Heavy Bells,” starts with a head-bobbing build to a thunderous punk rock chorus that’s gotta do some damage on the vocal chords. In “Black Light,” Walston juxtaposes his own scrappy voice with high, Robert Plant-esque vocals, proving incredible range. “Sweat Shop” takes off with a chanting tribal war cry, morphing into a stompy, dance-floor beat that dares you keep your ass in your chair. Continuously switching gears, “Boys Can Never Tell” shows off a vulnerability that we’ve never seen from the long-haired, piano-key-pounding Walston.
No question, the honky-tonk beatniks are still divinely fierce. They’ve found that magic that makes an album better with every listen in Essential Tremors.
By Shilo Delani