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Building bridges

Mudcat plays his way from Winder to Switzerland

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Local music fans may not realize it, but many of the smiling faces they see on the stages of neighborhood barrooms are national -- even international -- performers.

Guitarist Danny Dudeck, aka Mudcat, has regular gigs at Comeaux's Louisiana Bar & Grill in Alpharetta and Northside Tavern in Atlanta, but he's also performed as far away as London and Paris. His next local show is at Comeaux's Thurs., June 21, and he also performs at Chip's Roadhouse in Winder Fri., June 22.

It was only a couple of weeks ago, however, that Mudcat flew in from a grassroots tour of the pre-Alps region of Lombardia, which encompasses the southern part of Switzerland and northern part of Italy, only to fly out a day later to perform at the Chicago Blues Festival.

Mudcat has toured Italy and Switzerland before, including appearances last year at the Blues to Bop Festival in Lugano, Switzerland. On his England and France jaunts, he traveled with bandmates Julie Goldstein (saxophone) and Glenn "Snave" Evans (flute, guitar, harmonica, vocals), performing at clubs and theaters in the region. He also joined a local Italian power trio, the Joe Colombo Group, for three shows.

"We got real loud. [Colombo] does all the tear-off-your-shirt-in-the-middle-of-the-set [shtick], then starts humping the amplifier," Mudcat recalls, with a laugh. "Of course, I had to do all that stuff, too."

If that isn't bizarre enough, Mudcat also played gospel music at a funeral and performed at the Paradiso Perduto in Milan, a notorious bar whose proprietor is a cultural icon for standing up to the local Mafia.

"Venice is wild," Mudcat says. "I come from Savannah, went to New Orleans, thought that was 10 times Savannah in decadence and strangeness. But Venice is 100 times all of that."

On his trip, Mudcat was particularly smitten with the tarentella, a music form indigenous to southern Italy and northern Africa. Its rhythm and instrumentation, particularly the tambourine, define the form. It's based on legend and ritual dating back to the 1600s in which female victims of poisonous spider bites would cure themselves by engaging in a frenzied dance. (For more on the tarantella, visit www.italia culture.about.com/library/weekly/

aa052400a.htm.)

Mudcat has begun to incorporate the tarentella into his already-eclectic performances, although he expects the band's treatment of it to evolve over time.

"We did one last night," he says, referring to a Wednesday gig at Northside Tavern, which he does weekly. "We didn't have a tambourine so we got everybody to clap [the rhythm]."

This is not typical blues fare, to be sure. Despite his blues-based reputation and gig calendar, it's more accurate to think of Mudcat as a musical sojourner whose influences also include folk and hillbilly music, ragtime, country, even rap. He clearly enjoys the idea of integrating elements of diverse cultures into his music. He does so by experiencing these cultures firsthand.

"I'm starting to think maybe that's our mission, to build bridges, build as many bridges between people and cultures as we can," he says.

That's exactly what he's been doing for years, actually, through his "Givin' It Back" benefit festivals at the Northside Tavern and through his association with the Music Maker Relief Foundation (www.musicmaker.org), a Hillsborough, N.C., nonprofit organization that provides services to elderly Southern musicians in need. Music Maker offers assistance in emergencies and with day-to-day expenses and logistics and helps artists acquire instruments and bookings. The foundation has assisted such Atlanta artists as Cora Mae Bryant, Beverly "Guitar" Watkins, Frank Edwards and Eddie Tigner. In most cases, it was Mudcat who brought these musicians to the attention of Music Maker founder Tim Duffy.

"Everybody wins," Mudcat says. "These people lead more fulfilled lives and the public gets to enjoy their art."

As for his own ambitions, Mudcat says he "just wants to keep doing what I'm doing, only get better at it -- just keep traveling, meeting people and building bridges."

Mudcat and his band perform Thurs., June 21, at Comeaux's Louisiana Grill & Bar in Alpharetta, 770-442-2524, and

Fri., June 22, at Chip's in Winder,

770-307-2840, www.chipsroadhouse.com.

For more information, visit www.mudcat blues.com.

This column is a weekly feature

covering music outside the Perimeter.

E-mail or mail "outside" music news

to Bryan Powell, 830 Josh Lane, Lawrenceville, GA 30045.

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