The subdudes

Friday, November 21; Mississippi Nights

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Formed in 1987 for what was supposed to be a one-off gig at New Orleans' famed nightspot Tipitina's, the subdudes wound up playing together for almost a decade, touring steadily and recording five albums of roots rock that retained a distinct Louisiana flavor even after the group relocated to Colorado. Featuring vocal harmonies that drew comparisons to The Band, tasty slide guitar playing from Tommy Malone, zydeco-style accordion and boogie piano from John Magnie and the amazing percussion work of Steve Amadée (who somehow manages to make a tambourine sound like a full drum kit), the subdudes cooked up a unique gumbo of styles that incorporated blues, country, soul and gospel into a mostly acoustic format. For a band with a non-trendy sound, they enjoyed a fair amount of commercial success, with national TV appearances on Letterman and Leno and a couple of albums that sold in excess of 100,000 copies.

Eventually, the pressures of maintaining a career as a mid-level act in a music business that was increasingly oriented toward the all-or-nothing approach proved to be too much for the subdudes. Burned out on the road and suffering from personal differences and what Magnie labeled "writer's anxiety," they called it quits in 1996. The band members moved on to various spin-off projects such as Tiny Town, Three Twins and the Tommy Malone Band and played the occasional reunion show. Then in spring of 2002, Malone, Magnie and Amadée reunited (minus original bassist Johnny Ray Allen, who chose to stay home in New Orleans to tend to his family and business interests) as the Dudes, performing old subdudes favorites and material from their solo projects. With bassist Johnny Messa and multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Tim Cook now in the fold, a rekindled musical chemistry and a recent change back to their original moniker, the subdudes are once again writing and performing new material and are rumored to be negotiating a new record deal. With the principal players still at the height of their musical powers, the return is welcome news both to old fans and to younger listeners weaned on the so-called "Americana" movement.

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