Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Subdudes 1989-2008

I haven't said enough about the Subdudes. First, you've got to love the name Subdudes. You almost know New Orleans is involved. And the band's blend of roots Americana, soul, R&B, gospel and rock, with a pinch of New Orleans second line rhythm, is as appealing as it is unique. And they've made the most of it.

Singer, songwriter, guitarist Tommy Malone dominates the group, but he needs them, as his solo work has proved.

The records are splendid. If you haven't heard them, you should. Their sound is a delicious gumbo. Malone is a smokin' hot guitarist and excellent vocalist. Magnie plays accordion and keys and harmonizes with Malone in a special way, and Magnie's finely crafted songs relieve Malone of all of the songwriting and lead vocal duties. Steve Amadee plays an over-sized tambourine to remarkable effect, turning the simple instrument into an earthy drum kit, and a integral signature of the band's intricate, rootsy sound.

Where to start? Their debut, The Subdudes 1989, is as good a place as any, and one of their best. Light In You Eyes, Tell Me What's Wrong, Need Somebody, Got You On His Mind, One Time, and their fine cover of the New Orleans staple Big Chief are all standouts. It's an excellent record. The follow-up 1991's Lucky, is less fine, but has it's moments (Someday, Somehow, and Bye, Bye). Annunciation 1994 is a strong return to form, and You'll Be Satisfied and Late At Night are both priceless slices of funky Southern roots rock. Primitive Streak 1996 was not their best, but still All The Time In The World and Sarita are as good as their best work. 1997's Live At Last, closed the book on their first stint with a fine live document of a great live band, and it's a solid live hits sort of gig. The band had split prior to the record's release.

But come 2002, the original principles regroup. And the next thing you know, Miracle Mule 2004 is released, and it happens to rival the first one. Inspired with the band's revival, and perhaps benefiting from a long spell of writing, the band produces it's second classic. If Wishing Made It So, Sound Of Her Voice, Maybe You Think and the title track are all as good as they get, and the whole record holds up. Behind The Levee 2006 comes darn close to doing it again, and includes one fine gotta-dance-right-now single in Papa Dukie And The Mud People (Love Is  A Beautiful Thing), sort of a rootsy New Orleans version of John Mellencamp's Cherry Bomb. 2007's Street Symphony was a bit of a let-down, and consequently I haven't heard Flower Petals 2009.

Try the first one, The Subdudes 1989, Miracle Mule 2004, or Annunciation 1994, and you can't go wrong. Rootsy Americana, phat New Orleans funkiness, smart songwriting, great spare arrangements and top notch vocals. They are a great band to see live if you get the chance.

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