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Finding His Voice

Roger Wallace brings new life to old honky-tonk.


A music-loving Tennessee native, Wallace was in his 20s before he discovered his affinity for the country style. He moved to Austin in 1994 to find out what that fabled live music scene was about, and there he found a new and exciting sound. Hard country bands such as the Derailers were making noise. Junior Brown and Wayne Hancock were on a roll at the Continental Club. Wallace took notice, and he soon became part of a new influx of young players riding a wave of interest in the classic honky-tonk sound.

“I started getting into country stuff,” he recalls. “I had this ‘Holy s—t’ moment — I could do that.”

So he hung around for a couple of years, watched good bandleaders and got to know people. By the late 1990s, Wallace was playing around town and earning respect. He discovered songwriters Harlan Howard, Willie Nelson and Roger Miller, and began writing some estimable old-style country tunes. Wallace says that at first he wrote about anything that came into his mind, but he “wasted ideas and good lines on half-ass songs.” Now, he takes his time.

“I pretty much write a song in my head before I put it on paper,” the 31-year-old singer explains.

Wallace began touring and recording, and by 2002, he had three CDs behind him. His latest, “The Lowdown,” is a mix of unaffected original country songs and mellow interpretations of ballads by others. A new record is in the planning stages, but Wallace says it’s still a wide-open concept. “The Lowdown” was a slow-dance affair, but Wallace and his band are more live-wire in person. A new recording could reflect this side of Wallace’s music.

“It’s possible it could be a solo acoustic record or the exact opposite,” he says. “We do a lot of upbeat, rocking, dancing stuff at the live show.”

Wallace knows his live show is all-important in a musical world that revolves around small-club audiences and not around slick country-music radio support. But whatever it takes, he is game to go.

“You just have to stay around a long time,” Wallace says with a knowing laugh. “You never know. You have to take your chances.” S

Roger Wallace and his band play Poe’s Pub, Monday, Aug. 11, at 8:30 p.m. Cover is $6. 648-2120.

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