Roddie Romero and Eric Adcok, the heart of the “notorious Louisiana roots rocker” band, the Hub City Allstars
Roddie Romero and the Hub City All Stars are one of the pre-eminent roots bands in Louisiana. Their music is authentic, energetic and yet it evolves and grows – it is not stuck in time. The band earned a Grammy nomination for their 2007 album The La Louisianne Sessions and I suspect they will earn another nomination – and very possibly an award – with their new album, Gulfstream, which is 13 heavenly songs shepherded by the renowned British producer John Porter. I was lucky enough to catch up with Roddie and the band’s pianist, keyboardist, and songwriter Eric Adcock before their concert at the Crowley Opera House, where they were playing with Roddie’s idol, the legendary slide guitar player Sonny Landreth.
Patrick. I have your new album, Gulfstream, produced by British producer John Porter, and it is a killer. But I am curious – how did the “notorious Louisiana roots rockers” end up with one of the top British producers?
Roddie. We were introduced by Eric’s brother, Charles Adcock, in New Orleans. John Porter was living in New Orleans for quite a few years, making records with his wife. One night at the old Chickie Wa Wa Club, he turned up and had drinks with the band and danced the night away.
Eric. It is not too often that you get a guy who produced great records for Santana and BB King and Taj Mahal hanging around town. He can see he always loved roots music if you look at his pedigree. Of course there was the rock music and The Smiths, but throughout his career he always did blues and cultural music. It was a great fit, but he was willing to take on the project only if he could take it from start to finish – from first downbeat to engineering. And we are really, really proud of the record.
Patrick. The song “Rock and Roll Soul Radio” on the album will certainly wake you up. Is that a boogie beat in the background?
Eric. No doubt. We come from South Louisiana where people like to hold each other close and dance real tight. Ever since the 1950’s, when American music was kind of born in South Louisiana, people liked to dance and liked a fat back beat. I would definitely consider that a boogie beat. I come from a background of boogie woogie style New Orleans syncopated piano. That song covers all those bases.
Patrick. The lines in there, “But now the records don’t pop and the tubes don’t glow/ What’s happened to Rock ‘n’ Roll and Soul Radio?” Is that your take on the state of music today?
Eric. Yeah in one of my more disgruntled afternoons when I was flipping through channels on every station. Back in the day you knew who your disc jockey was, but not today. There is great music out there, but it is not on the radio. Sometimes commercial radio can have its effect on a listening audience. I miss the old days. I am kind of an old soul so to speak
Patrick. Roddie, you play the slide guitar, the accordion, and the guitar. When did you get introduced to the accordion? I understand there is a story there.
Roddie. It started when I was very young. Music has always been around my family, since I can remember. Sunday afternoon the family musicians would jam after lunchtime. I was introduced to the instrument at about five years old. My grandfather played a handful of songs around the house on his old Horner button box. He would let me have it after he played his songs. I would take it in the back room and make noise. My dad bought a box for my brother and I when I was nine years old and I swiped it from him and locked myself in my room with vinyl records for two years. So that is how I started; been playing ever since and I am 40 now.
Patrick. The accordion is making a comeback, even in rock bands and metal bands.
Roddie. Here is South Louisiana, it is still very much neighborhood music. You can go to towns like Lafayette and hear accordion music. It is a beautiful thing.
Patrick. Your song “One Trick Pony” really showcases the accordion. It is also a high tempo stand up and dance song. Eddie, I think I hear the ghost of Jerry Lee Lewis on the piano in that song. Did write that song or do you just play it back there because it feels good?
Eric. Well that is pretty much how we write every song. That song is pretty much standard blues but I am inspired by all the Louisiana piano players — Jerry Lee Lewis included from Ferridy LA — and Dr. John and Fats Domino and Professor Longhair and Allen Toussaint – we have a host of wonderful piano players. And of course Clifton Chenier the great zydeco player on the piano accordion. Those great honky-tonk piano players are my inspiration for sure.
Patrick. How did you two guys get together?
Eric. Well, Roddie and I have been playing together for about 25 years. We come from a fairly small town, Lafayette LA, which is a kind of a hub – hence the name, Hub City All Stars. Roddie was quite young and already touring, going to the Montreal Jazz Festival and all over North America and Canada. I was playing boogie woogie, rhythm and blues and Louisiana piano in nightclubs as a young teenager. It made sense, here was two young kids who lived close to each other and both playing professional – Roddie at a much higher level – and he asked me to get on the train and I did and it’s been a great ride.
Patrick. The more I listened to this album the more it became obvious that it is far more than just South Louisiana music. You guys push boundaries and really expand beyond the genre – or you expand the genre itself. Is that a conscious strategy or does it just come out that way.
Roddie. Absolutely. For me, personally, and I can speak a lot for Eric on this. Our heroes are close and most of them are still around. Sonny Landreth, Buckwheat, Zydeco, Clifton Chenier and others. So it is our interpretation of our heroes and their music. I approach songwriting in the way of them to capture that feel. We have a long lineage of music starting back in the early twenties with the first recordings and before that through house dances. We are interpreting it, carrying it on – we are the next generation.
Eric. Every great tree has great deep roots where we come from and big branches that reach forward. We are trying to draw from those cultural traditional inspirations but not be bound by them because the music has to evolve If every band around here just keeps playing the same music that has been around over the last century, it would die. You have to keep fertilizing and growing. Even if you might hear a song on our record that doesn’t sound like a traditional Cajun or zydeco song, it is inspired by those roots. We are trying to move things forward and be who we are and be true to themselves.
Patrick. Roddie, I understand you got introduced to the slide guitar by your hero Sonny Landreth, is that right?
Roddie. Yes. That was a great experience I will always remember. I started tinkering around with the guitar as a young teen and I heard about this slide payer and we happened to be playing at the Montreal Jazz Festival and so was he. I heard this guitar tone I had never heard before, so I went to the stage – this huge stage – during sound check time and I looked up and as if the clouds parted there was Sonny playing the bottleneck slide guitar. I had never seen that before. This opened up a new world for me. It has been a long and fruitful friendship, him being 10 miles from us, and an honor to know him. He has been so gracious to come to our shows and even play sometimes in the band. I am intrigued and in awe of his talent.
Patrick. Another awe-inspiring event, at least for me, is watching the video of you playing with a symphony orchestra. How did that happen?
Eric. We have a really cool conductor of our symphony in Lafayette. He is trying to spread symphonic music in the community and support the culture of our community. Beethoven did not live in South Louisiana, neither do Chopin or Bach but Clifton Chenier and Roddie and the Hub City Allstars do. So he came to us and said he would like to take a few of our songs have them scored for symphony in New York and have a symphony performance and have people in the community experience your music with a symphony and your band. It was the craziest thing we had heard of – Roddie and I are both self-taught and we don’t read music. To see symphonic scores of songs we had written was a special moment. It was a real hit and hats off to the conductor for bringing cultural music and classic music together.
Patrick. I am so happy someone also shot a video so we can all experience it. Thank you for talking with us today.
Roddie Romero and the Hub City All Stars http://roddieromero.com/
Gulfstream is available at the website, on iTunes, CD Baby and all the usual online outlets and streamed on Spotify.