By Andrew Gilhooley / 411
AFTER AN EIGHT-YEAR break, top Louisiana roots-rock band the Subdudes are back together again. They have a new album, “Miracle Mule,” and have hit the road with a vengeance to promote it. April and May alone will see the band visiting 13 states, and this Friday, they play not just one but two shows at Moe’s Alley Blues Club in Santa Cruz.
The Subdudes were formed originally for a one-off gig by members of another band. John Magnie (vocals and keyboards) had a weekly gig with a band called the Continental Drifters at Tipita’s Club in New Orleans.
For fun, he wanted to set up a smaller-scale group, and so with friends Tommy Malone (vocals, guitar) and Steve Amerdée (vocals, percussion), he set up a side gig.
“The concept was to bring only what we could carry,” Malone said, “so we just kind of showed up with a couple of acoustic guitars and Steve’s little tambourine thing. We all had a desire to do something a little more rootsy, focusing on the songs and the singing. It was a little more subdued — that word came out and it was like ‘yeah, that’s it.’”
During the next 10 years, the Subdudes established themselves as one of Louisiana’s premier roots bands, drawing on blues, folk, Cajun, gospel and other influences. Their vocal harmonies and musicianship invited comparisons with Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. They released five CDs, collaborated with Bruce Hornsby, Bonnie Raitt and others, and became regular favorites at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.
The Subdudes broke up in 1997 after releasing their farewell album, “Live at Last,” and the members went on to form various other bands, often collaborating on each other’s projects. In 2002, Malone had formed the Tommy Malone Band with Subdudes bassist/guitarist Jimmy Messa and invited Magnie to sit in at a Denver show.
The chemistry was so great at the show that they decided then and there that they had to play together again. Malone’s band and Magnie’s band, the Three Twins, merged and began playing as the Dudes until 2003, when they regained their original name and original drummer.
For the reunited Subdudes, it is like they’ve never been away.
“It was one of those cases where the sum is greater than the parts; it took off from about where it had been before,” Magnie said.
“Miracle Mule” shows the Subdudes at their creative peak, and the band promises more to come.
“As excited as we are to get this first album done, I think we’re even more excited about the future,” bassist Tim Cook said. “We’re already talking about writing for the next couple of albums. Nothing else matters, because now we know how much fun we can have.”
First published in “411”, The Salinas Californian, April 22, 2004
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