He’s been crisscrossing Texas, hustling gigs in beerjoints and ballrooms from Corpus Christi to Lubbock, dancehalls and roadhouses from Ft. Worth to San Antone, from two bit dives in no-name towns to the legendary clubs of Austin, close on 20 years. The thousands of miles and countless cups of truckstop coffee may have left Ted Roddy with no real hope or expectation of fame or its fortunes at age 42, if he ever had them, but they’ve earned him regional renown (he was inducted into the Texas Music Hall of Fame this year) and the sort of job satisfaction money can’t buy. He can still sing, on “All Night Texas Turnaround”, “Takin’ it to the people of the state / That’s my privilege and my fate”, as if he’s as honored by the fate as the privilege. We should all be so lucky.
“All Night Texas Turnaround” is an autobiographical road trip to the four corners of Texas set to a hot western swing sound. Much of the rest of Tear Time, Roddy’s second US release (the first, Wandering Eyes, was issued on Hightone in 1995) is a grand tour of Texas country, from sweaty honky tonk (“It Hasn’t Happened Yet” and “Let’s Drown Together”) to feverish rockabilly (“Hillbilly Rocket”), from the southern borderlands (“Se Habla Heartache” and “Border of Mexico”) to the eastern (the Cajun flavors of “Pretty Baby” and “By My Side”), back to a big bottomed, steady rollin’ Waylon Jennings beat (“I Like Whiskey”) and another hip shaking shuffle (“Presence Known”).
Roddy packs Austin’s Continental Club twice yearly, on special dates in January and August, with the Graceland Revue, a dead serious tribute to Elvis Presley. “Elvis to me is like a spiritual thing”, he says, and you can hear it in his baritone (check the vocal flight at the end of “Se Habla Heartache”), but that’s not the only measure of Memphis in his sound. Roddy does a honky tonk turn to the song that lends the band its name, Dan Penn and Donnie Fritts’ obscure rhythm & blues gem “Tearjoint” (from Penn’s unjustly forgotten 1973 album, Nobody’s Fool), and he closes the set with an homage to the classic Sun sound, “Pick Up & Move On”, ace guitarist (and co-producer) Jim Stringer paying respects to the stylings of Scotty Moore. But the real knockout punch is the sweet country soul of “War Between Two Loves”, which feels like it could have come out of Chips Moman’s American Studio circa 1969, and has every right to be the hit it surely won’t be.
But make no mistake, despite the retro references Tear Time is no exercise in nostalgia. It’s music with deep roots in classic country and R&B sounds, music with a history, but as contemporary as next Saturday night, and no more likely to go out of style. At least not as long as Ted Roddy and the Tearjoint Troubadors have anything to say about it.