To pin down the sound of a Gulf Coast roadhouse, you have to triangulate using Red Dirt country, Texas blues, and Louisiana swamp pop. Or, you could take a shortcut and Google “Delbert McClinton.” It’s a Saturday night soundtrack for oil rig and refinery workers, ranch hands, and longshoremen. All of which makes it the musical tradition shared by every musician growing up in Houston, Texas. On Saturday, May 21, Portland music fans will have a special opportunity to experience the Gulf Coast sound when three old Houston friends reunite to transform Vie de Boheme into a rockin’ Texas roadhouse.
Drummer Roger Espinor went to high school with guitarist Danny Gardner, while Rich Layton learned harmonica and fronted a neighborhood garage band across town. Over the years, each musician established himself in Houston’s inner city music community and played in various traveling bands that crisscrossed the region. Although Roger and Rich never crossed paths in Houston, each migrated independently to the Northwest in the late ‘90s. Roger was a founding member of The Rose City Kings and now is the driving force (along with his wife Debby on keys) behind IBC semi-finalists, Sister Mercy. Meanwhile, Rich fired up his namesake twang and tremolo outfit, Rich Layton & The Troublemakers. When CBA President Greg “Slim Lively” Johnson introduced Roger and Rich a year ago, the two quickly discovered they had a mutual friend in Danny Gardner.
With his band The Romeo Dogs, Danny has been a revered figure on the Gulf Coast roadhouse circuit for decades. As a songwriter, he captures the essence of star-crossed, trailer park sweethearts, cry-in-your-beer heartbreak and truck-stop wanderlust. Rich recorded a couple of Danny’s songs on his band’s first album and keeps a batch in rotation with the T-Makers live shows. At a benefit last year, Rich was backed by the Sister Mercy band for a version of Gardner’s “One Bag & A Suitcase” — and that put the twinkle in Roger’s eye to get Danny up to Portland. When news travelled along the grapevine that Danny was considering a honeymoon trip to the Northwest, Roger and Debby put the wheels in motion for this musical reunion. Within days, Cherie Robbins offered to put the promotional muscle of Cherie’s Blues Highway behind the event.
After the music kicks off with short sets by each band, Danny, Rich, and Roger will be backed by a rotating line up of band mates from Sister Mercy and The Troublemakers. It’s shaping up to be a master class in Texas twang and tremolo. Be there to witness as Vie de Boheme, 1530 SE 7th, transforms from a cool wine bar to red hot, rocking roadhouse. Showtime starts at 8:30 pm, admission is $10.00.