the subdudes
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the subdudes

Band Americana Rock


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"New Orleans Times-Picayune"

When the subdudes called it quits in the fall of 1996, fans were left to mourn the passing of one of the city's most beloved and original acts, a quartet that made blue-eyed soul and roots rock laden with rich harmonies and propelled by a percussionist who worked a tambourine as if it were a full drum kit.

The Subdudes reunited for the odd special event, but have lain dormant for more than two years. On Thursday at the House of Blues, three fourths of the subdudes - guitarist/vocalist Tommy Malone, keyboardist/accorionist John Magnie, and percussionist Steve Amedee - will reunite as The Dudes. They'll be joined by bassist Jimmy Messa and drummer Sammy Neal from Malone's solo band, as well as bassist and former subdudes manager Tim Cook, who performs with Magnie and Amedee in Colorado as the Three Twins.

In the years since the subdudes disbanded, Malone and Magnie both discovered that starting from scratch again is no easy proposition. But it wasn't until Magnie sat in with Malone's trio during a performance in Denver that they remembered how much they enjoyed sharing a stage.

Talk soon turned to working together again. When it became clear that subdudes bassist Johnny Ray Allen would not be a part of a full-blown sub-dudes reunion, Magnie and Malone decided to combine their two trios into one sprawling, six-piece roots 'n soul band that would perform material from Malone's solo band, the Three Twins and the subdudes.

Malone cam up with "the Dudes" name as a way to "make the connection to the old band, but let people know we're trying to move forward."

To do so, they had to accommodate two bassists and two percussionists. Cook will likely play bass on the Twins material, then switch to hand percussion as Messa takes over on bass for the Malone and subdudes material. Neal will play his drum kit on the solo Malone material, while Amedee handles the twins songs and then switches to his trademark tambourine for the subdudes classics.

"After the subdudes went down, I thought we'd never work together again," Magnie said. "But then we came around to where this has a natural energy that feels good. You can't predict that."

In addition to this week's house of Blues date, the Dudes are planning a string of Colorado shows in March. Depending on how those go, they may continue on as The Dudes, even as they maintain their individual bands.

"We're hoping one will feed the other," Malone said. "We're trying to move forward and let nature take its course. I'd like to work this thing as much as people seem to want it." - Keith Spera

"Chattanooga Free Press"

The Subdudes earned a loyal fan base because of their songwriting and regular touring.

Ironically, it's what also led to their breakup in 1996, according to keyboardist/accordionist John Magnie.

"A major part of the band was our songwriting, and that had run its course. The funny thing is, when we were most successful, we were touring and not writing," he said.

The break breathed new life into at least three of the four original Subdudes, and they have hooked up again with three old friends to form The Dudes. The six-piece band will appear tonight at MIller Plaza as part of the Nightfall Concert Series.

After the split, Magnie formed a trio called 3 Twins that included fellow Subdude Steve Amedee and former Subdude manager Tim Cook. They played throughout Colorado, where they live.

Tommy Malone also created a trio, called the Tommy Malone Trio, which worked out of New Orleans. It featured Jimmy Messa on bass and Sammy Neal on drums.

When Magnie sat in with the Malone Trio in Denver, the old spark emerged and talk of a reunion started.

Original Subdudes bass player John Allen wanted no part of it, so talk turned to putting the two trios together. The Dudes played their first show during Mardi Gras last February.

"It's been great," Magnie said. "Especially for me. I've been writing a lot of new material. We needed the break."

The show tonight will feature half a set of Subdude's material and then new stuff by both former trios.

"It primarily will be the stuff Tommy was doing with his band, but also some of our material with 3 Twins, which is pretty much a throwback to the gospel and blues stuff," Magnie said.

Having a bigger band and new material has injected new life into everyone involved, Magnie said.

"It really feels new and fresh. It's a different thing than the really stripped down, economical Subdudes stuff."

"It's bigger and fuller with some great playing, especially from the percussion guys from New Orleans. They're really good."

A recording project is in the works, but Magnie said they are taking their time, making sure to get everything right.

"We want to develop this music and let it take its time," he said.
- Barry Courter

"Subdudes bring their fans into the act at Granada"

Longevity in the music business generally comes with a price onstage. Fans scream for the old stuff a band is sick of playing and time their bathroom breaks around its new material.

But Thursday night at the Granada Theater, the Subdudes' crowd sang along not just with longtime favorites such as "Late at Night," "Need Somebody" and "Why Can't I Forget About You" but also with tunes from the month-old Behind the Levee.

Fans even did such a good job on the "na-na-na-na-na" chorus of the new "Papa Dukie & the Mud People," which ended the set, that the band members were able to put down their instruments and slowly leave the stage to an a cappella audience serenade.

And a show highlight was the new "Next to Me," an instant classic with a chorus that would turn Al Green green with envy. Tommy Malone's soulful, dusky baritone and gleaming guitar fills, reminiscent of Green sideman Teeny Hodges – along with John Magnie's glistening keyboards and the group's lush, multipart vocal harmonies – steeped the song in Memphis atmosphere.

Gorgeous vocal harmonies are a Subdudes trademark, as is slightly eccentric, varying instrumentation.

Mr. Magnie plays accordion more than keyboards and sometimes makes his accordion serve more the function of an R&B horn section.

Jimmy Messa frequently trades his bass for an electric guitar, while percussionist Tim Cook sometimes grabs a bass, and percussionist Steve Amedee gets more sounds out of a tambourine than most people can get out of a full drum kit.

Mr. Amedee also brought a surprising new visual dimension to the Subdudes' low-key stage presence, delighting the crowd with advanced yo-yo tricks in the middle section of "Let's Play."

Mr. Malone is an unassuming guitarist – he doesn't make those scrunchy soloist faces – but played more thrilling electric blues solos than a lot of well-known guitar heroes and let loose with some nonchalantly tasty acoustic flat-picking, as well as searing electric slide. His broad palette of tones, from mud-thick to warm and sweet to razor-edged, added to the band's versatility.

There wasn't a dull moment in the two-hour show, and a large portion of the crowd was still clapping and screaming too hard after the second encore to notice the houselights had come on. - (Parry Gettelman)




Over the course of 20 years and eight albums, the subdudes have quietly become one of America's national music treasures.
The New Orleans-formed group is a living encapsulation of American music, a vibrant cauldron of sounds that stirs together meaty grooves and jazzy dynamics, soulful R&B swagger, easy vocal harmonies, cheeky rock 'n' roll attitude and folky social consciousness -- not to mention some of the sharpest musicianship and ensemble playing you'll ever hear from any five musicians. It's tight enough to be loose, but never gratuitously sloppy.
Those virtues have seldom been displayed better than on STREET SYMPHONY, the subdudes' third album since regrouping in 2002 after a five-year hiatus. Richly crafted and fiercely executed, it's the document of a veteran band that's still learning, growing and getting better at what it does.
"Basically what we wanted was to go in and capture the live vibe of this band," explains Tommy Malone (vocals, guitar), who co-founded the subdudes in 1987 with former Continental Drifter John Magnie (vocals, keyboards) and Steve Amedee (vocals, percussion). Tim Cook (vocals, bass, percussion) and Jimmy Messa (bass, guitar) arrived in
subsequent years. "We often hear people say they love to come see us, but the records are just not what we are. They're not what we sound like. This time we wanted to get that vibe on tape, and I think we did."

Working with producer George Massenberg last March in Nashville, the band took a batch of songs they'd written in previous months and delivered vibrant performances on each. The group members arranged themselves in a circle, facing each other and feeding off that energy and communication as they played. "There was no glass, no separation,"
Malone recalls. "The machine never stopped. It was just a great way to record."

STREET SYMPHONY maintains the joyous, life-affirming vibe that's part and parcel of the subdudes' music as the group muses about the mythical (but certainly desired) "Fountain of Youth," channels a bit of street corner soul into "Work Clothes" and finds redemptive love in the gorgeous "Absolutely," that both belies and complements the more serious outlook on several of the 12 songs here. This is, after all, the subdudes' first set of new material post-Katrina and the devastation it caused to the band's home town in 2005, and it would seem unnatural if it didn't impact on the music.
The first single, "Poor Man's Paradise" is a stark look at New Orleans in the wake of that natural disaster. "Thorn in Her Side" employs the Statue of Liberty as a well-pointed metaphor about the current state of affairs in the United States. "Brother Man" calls for a bridge between the divides of race and religion. "I'm Your Town" asks "who's gonna save me?"
"We are a fairly political bunch," acknowledges Magnie. "We're a bunch of peaceniks. We don't like to get too specific with those political things, but of course we're basically a bunch of bleeding heart liberals." Malone agrees that topical songs are "a fine line and tricky business" but adds that "I don't know how you avoid it right now. It's not necessarily comfortable, but we all have a duty at this point to say something about what's going on."
In that regard, Malone, Magnie and their mates figure that STREET SYMPHONY is the perfect title for this particular landmark in the subdudes’ history.
"All over the country," Malone explains, "the real shit evolves from the street. When people want change, they get outside and they get a sign and they start marching and singing. That's the beginning. If you get enough of them, things
will change."

But what remains the same is the subdudes' pursuit of musical excellence and excitement, embodied yet again on STREET SYMPHONY.