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Rock 'n' roll gumbo

Mudcat offers an alternative to the same ol' blues

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His name is Danny Dudeck, but more folks know him as "Mudcat," which is also the name of his band. Mudcat, 34, has been in Atlanta since 1989, by that time having lived and/or traveled in New York, Houston, San Antonio, New Orleans and Savannah, playing countless street gigs along the way. More recently, Mudcat has recorded and released two CDs, Mud, Sweat and Beers last October, and Mo' Better Chicken, which is just hitting the streets now. Both feature what Mudcat likes to call "rock 'n' roll gumbo" (with regards to Professor Longhair, who apparently coined the phrase). It's a mix of blues, rock, folk and country that comes together to form a unique, entertaining sound.

Prevailing music business wisdom says you don't release two CDs in six months. Simply put, the marketplace hasn't had time to spread the word on the first one before the arrival of the second. "I hate to use the word, but it was an artistic decision. I just have an overwhelming desire to record," Mudcat says.

Unlike many local performers, Mudcat has had the benefit of touring nationally and abroad, thanks in great part to his association with the Winston Blues Revival Tour and MusicMaker Relief Foundation. The latter is a non-profit organization based in North Carolina, devoted to improving the lives of Southern blues and folk artists. It has provided support for local performers such as Frank Edwards and Beverly "Guitar" Watkins.

Through his association with Winston and MusicMaker, Mudcat has performed across the country, often on dates with Taj Mahal headlining. The band recently appeared at the Chicago Blues Festival and has upcoming dates at Lincoln Center in New York, and overseas in Switzerland and France in the fall. Mudcat also appeared recently on CNN's "World Beat."

While recording his two latest CDs, Mudcat was in negotiation with some industry heavies for a major label recording contract. It didn't materialize, Mudcat says, because he was unwilling to alter the band's diverse musical menu. "They were looking for the next Jonny Lang," he says. "They wanted me to limit myself to a narrow slice of what the band does, with me playing a lot of slide guitar."

Meanwhile, Mudcat says Chicago-based blues label Alligator Records has twice turned the band down as "too eclectic."

Undaunted, Mudcat cites that band's diversity as a key factor in making it unique and memorable. His recent touring has only reinforced this belief. "At one point, I thought we were just unique in Atlanta, but I've seen bands in Dallas, Chicago, and they were all the same, even street musicians in Paris, all the same, all playing the same songs. If you closed your eyes, you couldn't tell them apart. Any one of them could be a local band in Atlanta or anywhere else."

If that's not a valuable lesson for every hopeful band on the planet, I don't know what is.

Mudcat includes Dudeck, guitar and vocals; Lori Beth Edgeman, vocals; Chris Uhler, congas, rub board, drums; Jon Schwenke, bass; and Janet Daniels, drums. The band performs on Thursdays at Comeaux's Louisiana Grill & Bar in Alpharetta. Dudeck performs solo each Wednesday at the Northside Tavern. For a complete schedule, visit www.mudcatblues.com.

Heard 'n' scene: For those who missed it, Dr. Love (alias Tom Davis) hosted the annual blues "harmonica search" at Blind Willie's on Father's Day. Such events have the potential to be painful, but this one had some fine moments, particularly from co-winners Eryk Fisher and Jamie Russell. Both will appear at the Great Atlanta Blues Revue to be held in Woodruff Park at the end of July. Speaking of Blind Willie's, mark your calendars for shows there featuring a regrouped Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen (remember "Hot Rod Lincoln" or "Beat Me Daddy, Eight to the Bar?") on Mon., July 3; and Chicago vets Eddie Shaw and the Wolf Gang -- the original backing band of blues icon Howlin' Wolf -- on Sun., July 23.

Mississippi bluesman Robert Johnson died in 1938, reputedly poisoned by a jealous husband. Recently, according to the Associated Press, the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled that royalties from Johnson's recordings -- roughly $1 million -- will go to a retired truck driver from Crystal Springs, Miss., named Claud Johnson, whose mother had a relationship with the blues guitarist back in 1931.

With Johnson's economic legacy apparently resolved, it's worth mentioning that Johnson's most direct surviving musical heir, 85-year-old Robert Jr. Lockwood, has released Delta Crossroads, a set of acoustic blues featuring eight Johnson tunes. Lockwood's mother also had a relationship with Johnson, who taught then-young Lockwood many aspects of his style. Lockwood has recorded since the 1940s, often mixing his blues with an entertaining, original jazz sensibility, but this Telarc set is probably the most unabashed Johnson tribute he's ever done.

Talkin' Blues is a new monthly column on blues and related subjects, with an emphasis on local artists, venues and events. Please forward your blues news to Bryan Powell, 830 Josh Lane, Lawrenceville, GA 30045, or e-mail Ga6string@aol.com.

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