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MUSIC REVIEW: J. Roddy Walston’s “Hard Times” is perfect Tennessee rock


WFANs Big Hello To Brooklyn Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images

This here is a perfect rock ‘n roll song. There’s no one perfect rock ‘n roll song, because rock ‘n roll is too amorphous and ubiquitous that to nail down the perfect rock ‘n roll song — with the definite article — inspires too much argument and sub-argument and sub-sub-argument as to be futile. J. Roddy Walston & the Business’ “Hard Times” is merely a perfect rock ‘n roll song, and I can’t stop listening to it.

Further still, this is Tennessee rock. This is the place that produced Lucero and Ben Nichols, the best purveyors of country rock music this side of Vince Gill or Dwight Yoakam. J. Roddy Walston’s sound is that of the Kings of Leon but on severely better drugs and alcohol. We are, after all, the premiere drugs, booze, and rock ‘n roll blog on the web, and “Hard Times” is certainly about that life.

The reason that this song is a perfect American rock ‘n roll document is that it initiates itself on disaster. On non-promise. You may be happy in your life, but you’re not going to always be happy in your life. Hi, Ole Miss football fan.

The good times will come.
The good times will roll away.
You can get a good time but that good time ain't gonna stay.
So I'm gonna come with you.I'm gonna come to you.
You're a hard time, but you're the kind that's long and true.
You're a hard time, but I'm agonna come to you.

You’re a hard time, but I’m agonna come to you. We all self-punish ourselves — especially in our love loves — and this here, hard times indeed, shoves me off into the void of hard times. Sure, the good times will come, but they’re also going to roll away — avowedly, they WILL roll away — and that guitar and percussion will push me forward and out of bed on Tuesday.

Oh yeah, here’s this:

Old man wanna live, but the young man he wanna die.
Old man knows better but the young man, he's gotta try.

This seems the opposite of what you’d expect, but it’s entirely true, because this is Tennessee rock. Lucan was 25 when he opened his veins in a Rome bathtub, because he wanted to die. There was nowhere else to go, there was no one else to talk to, there was nothing else to write. He’d completed nine and a half books of the worst poem ever written and he killed himself in a bathtub spouting off Latin poetry about a dying soldier to his family and friends. The young man, he wanna die.

The young man, he wanna die.

The thing about this song is that it moves too quickly forward to allow you to linger on any one sentiment. Old, young, who wants to die and when. There’s no time to focus on any singular question. This song puts music into your legs and forces you to nod your head in time. It includes some screaming, because this is Tennessee, where things can get severely messed up.

The young want to die, they just don’t know it. The old man wanna live, though.