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Published: 2009/01/20
by Brian Robbins

Live at the Ram’s Head – The subdudes


Whether he meant to or not, subdudes' lead singer Tommy Malone perfectly sums up what the band is all about early on in their new release, Live At The Ram’s Head. Malone calls a halt to the opening chords of “Papa Dukie & The Mud People” to request a couple of chairs — one for himself and another for vocalist/keyboardist/accordion master John Magnie. Once the dudes get settled into their seats, Malone lets out a little happy sigh. “That’s what this band is all about comfort,” he says.

Tis true: with roots over 20 years old, plenty of road miles under their wheels, and numerous dues paid, the subdudes are vets – good at what they do, and nothing to prove. But don’t mistake the appreciation of a good place to sit for any lack of fire, spark, or funk no way. Take, for instance, the aforementioned “Papa Dukie”: once comfy, the band launches into their happy tale of a small town’s reaction to a band of hippies settling in “down by the river.” If you don’t catch yourself at least head-bopping to the groove, something’s wrong. And when Magnie digs into the accordion, close your eyes: imagine the early-90s Dead doing a Reckoning-style version of “Franklin’s Tower” with Bruce Hornsby on the squeezebox. Yass, yass: “Make you wanna dance/make you wanna holler” indeed.

The dudes take us down many roads in this two-CD set (soundtrack to their also-just-released DVD Live And Acoustic): percussionist Steve Amedee lays down a Middle Eastern-flavored thump that the boys weave some Keith-Richards-meets-Rahat-Fateh-Ali-Kahn riffs around on “Sarita”; in “Late At Night” we follow the beat of Tim Cook’s bass and Jimmy Messa’s chunky rhythm guitar, bumping-and-grinding our way down North Rampart Street in New Orleans at 1:00 AM; we mellow out on the front porch as Malone sings about his late father in “Carved In Stone.”

Nope no laser light shows or fog machines here, folks. The subdudes just dig in and get down even when they’re sitting.

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