VISITING ACT ‌ Letting It In 

Ralph Roddenbery breaks the chains of boo coo disarray

click to enlarge Ralph Roddenbery: known among fans for embracing his art
  • Ralph Roddenbery: known among fans for embracing his art
Ralph Roddenbery
Thurs. Jan. 12
10 p.m.
$6
Pour House
1977 Maybank Hwy.
571-4343www.charlestonpourhouse.com

Some of Ralph Roddenbery's friends might argue that he's a tough nut to crack, while others shorten their opinion to just "a nut." Either way, the Georgia singer/songwriter has an undeniable knack for tapping into the emotional undercurrent of his songs, many of which are just as likely to make you laugh, as they are to cause moistening of the 'lids, all within the same four minutes.

Roddenbery grew up in the small, south Georgia town of Cairo and moved up to Athens around 1986. At that time, many of his now-longtime friends — including members of Widespread Panic, Bloodkin, and Barbara Cue — were just cutting their teeth in and around the Classic City's music scene. R.E.M. were still years away from peeking above the college radio underground.

"I knew lots of people in Athens before I moved there and it was a really creative climate to be involved in," says Roddenbery. "There was more of an earthy feel to the whole scene then, I think. There's still some incredible music there, you just have to look a little harder to find it sometimes. When I first came to town, though, I think the whole menagerie of music was a lot more eclectic. It was overwhelmingly influential for me in terms of starting to write songs and putting all these weird thoughts down on paper."

Though he's long since embraced playing regular live gigs, Roddenbery's recording ventures haven't been so easy to pin down. His self-released first album, 1995's Fix Myself, was recorded with Athens producer John Keane and a crew of local talent — including Bloodkin bassist Paul "Crumpy" Edwards and keyboardist Davis Causey, working under the group heading Second Hand.

Playing many gigs with just his guitar as accompaniment, or with basic fiddle/mandolin/second guitar backing, Roddenbery had a much better idea of what he was after on the long-in-the-process 2003 release Live At Tree Sound Studios. This time he was able to pick from a more varied catalog of material and his laugh/cry tendencies served the project well. In the ominous "Boo Coo Disarray," the narrator keeps losing his keys and his goldfish tries to do him in. Later, the moving "Appreciate" says, basically, "I fucked up, a lot, but I still love you," in much more eloquent fashion.

Since the Tree sessions, Roddenbery's been doing the full-band thing more regularly. The Ralph Roddenbery Band, the previous lineups of which were fleeting at best, has settled in well with guitarist Chris Rotch, bassist Tommy Jones, drummer Shelley Murphy, and percussionist Chris Larson. All can be heard on the new live effort Let It In, which they recorded with the help of Dynasonic, a studio/label out of Atlanta, where Roddenbery, too, is now based. Whereas the Tree Sound album exuded a comfortable back-porch feel, Let It In allows Ralph and band to cut loose in a more festive atmosphere.

"I really love the semi-Motown feel we got on the Let It In recording," says Roddenbery. "I wanted to ooze some rock 'n' roll and, with the help of some good people, we did it. I think we've only scratched the surface, but all bands that aren't the Rolling Stones have probably felt that way at some time or another."

Look for Roddenbery on the Pour House stage this week alongside Georgia-based pedal steel player Mark Van Allen (of Blueground Undergrass) and California singer/guitarist and author David Gans, celebrated host of the nationally syndicated radio show Grateful Dead Hour.


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