Photo courtesy Matt Wignall
“‘Marigold’ is a dance song about the classic ‘Girl meets boy who is pretending to be a girl, who is poor and an artist and dabbling in drug usage because it’s all art and his trust fund says so,’ story.” That’s J. Roddy Walston’s wry explanation for the rollicking new single from Essential Tremors, J. Roddy Walston & the Business’s upcoming third album. A wicked sense of humor is as central to the Business’s boogie rock as distorted guitars or arena-sized drums. Even the album title, which takes its name from Walston’s actual nervous-system condition, prods a finger at something serious and forces you to crack a smile.
And Walston and his band have left a lot of smiles on fans’ faces over the years. Forming in 2002 in Walston’s Tennessee hometown, the group moved to Baltimore in 2004 but retained its heavy, Southern roots. Walston pounds at his piano like a latter-day Jerry Lee Lewis, and the rest of the band can alternately pummel or swing with an funk-inspired beat. It’s no surprise that the Business has made its reputation on its live shows, touring with like-minded acts the Black Keys and Lucero. The band’s two previous albums served to capture their live intensity in all its gritty glory.
But Essential Tremors comes the closest to the Business’s sweaty performances. Out September 10, the album sounds like a long-lost chart-topper from the late-70’s, swinging between unhinged riff-rock and an occasional power ballad. Recorded in tiny Valdosta, Georgia, Essential Tremors is as humid as its birthplace, but the band made sure to add brains to their brawn. Walston claims he likes “writing religious songs for the animal side,” and “Marigold” comes closest to that assessment. Buried beneath the foot-stomping beat is a colorful character sketch that’s just as Southern as J. Roddy Walston & the Business.