The Sons of Hermann Hall in Deep Ellum is fast becoming a Texas-music museum, where the state's best (and the rest, God bless Tommy Alverson and Ed Burleson forever) are on a permanently rotating display that changes every weekend. The best live-music venue in town--a nearly century-old German fraternal hall forever encased in hardwood, hops, and history--it's also the only place in town where you can still hear the old-time pioneers (Hank Thompson, the Light Crust Doughboys) play alongside the fresh-faced Young Turks (Cowboys and Indians, Mary Cutrufello); they even called one event down at the Sons last summer the "Texas Music Celebration Week," the bill reading like a who's who of would-be heroes and should-be icons with Junior Brown, Ronnie Dawson, and Butch Hancock rounding out the Holy Galdarn Trinity, but it's the same ol' same ol' week in and week out, God bless Mike Snider forever.
The Sons is a museum that does not discriminate, that doesn't honor the famous and ignore the obscure; it acknowledges the past and nods toward the future, embraces the great and welcomes even the mediocre, forgives transgressions and expects only the best. It demands only one thing--that the musicians who grace its stage belong to the tradition of Texas music, that they sing its praises whether they play country or blues or rock or jazz or that elusive bastard hybrid that makes the music Texan in the first place. It makes the Sons a perfect stop for Ted Roddy and the Derailers this Saturday night--the former being a shamefully anonymous part of the music's recent past, the latter turning into a piece of its future.
Ted Roddy began his career as a bluesman, having fronted the locally based Midnighters with Mark Pollock during a time when the chitlin' circuit was still plugged in for white and black musicians. But he might be better known to some for who he once played with, Jim "Reverend Horton Heat" Heath having been a member of Teddy and the Talltops in the early '80s back when Roddy was teaching Heath how to comb his hair like Gene Vincent. Roddy was Heath's rockabilly model, another kid from Corpus Christi attracted to the music not merely because of its sound, but because of its larger-than-life style. But theirs was a short-lived partnership that sent one man to fame and another to country-western and, once more, the blues.
Roddy's now a hillbilly boy singing about "Honky-Tonk Hell" (on the new Austin Country Nights compilation) and celebrating the "Sparkling City" on his own mishmash, last year's Full Circle, sounding like a guy who's not afraid to park his Huffy 10-speed outside a biker bar. If he sometimes sounds too much like a Nashville pop star or the Fabulous Thunderbirds, you can at least tell he's not trying to.
As for the Derailers, they're Austin's version of Buck Owens and the Buckaroos--their brand of country is slick even when it's on the raw side, pop even when it sounds "authentic." There's nothing new about their presentation, especially the presentation itself, but that's what makes the traditionalists so essential--they uncover the revelations hiding beneath so many layers of dust.
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Ted Roddy and The Derailers perform January 13 at the Sons of Hermann Hall.