Blues harmonica player Mark "Mad Dog" Friedman was on his way back from Memphis in 2018 when he discovered the rootsy sound for which he'd long been searching.
"I heard this one guy there who I really liked," he recalls. "His sound included [upright] bass, harmonica and acoustic guitar. On the flight home, I was sick, almost in a fever state, just listening to his CD, and I really dug it. It had this old-time feel, kind of like Sonny Boy Williamson and Big Bill Broonzy stuff that was done with mandolins. I decided right then that it was what I wanted to do. So I put together a band to capture that particular vibe."
Friedman has been a longstanding presence in Colorado's music scene, playing in various bands over four decades, groups like Papa Juke, King Comfort and Mojo Medicine Show. Now the rootsy musician, along with his band, the Mad Dog Blues Experience, kicks up a dusty fusion of acoustic blues and string band-influenced jamming.
"It's based around old rural Southern country blues and includes elements of hokum and jug band," he says. "We also wanted to incorporate some of the Colorado sound, and so we added a jam-grass feel. We don't have drums, but people never seem to have a problem dancing to us."
The band has a rotating cast of musicians, often including Jeff Becker of Hippy Buckaroos on mandolin, Clark Chanslor of White Water Ramble on upright bass, Sean Bennight on acoustic guitar, and Mark Kaczorowski of Blues on the Lamb on acoustic guitar.
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"We played our first shows with just me and the bass," recalls Friedman. "It started with just the two of us, and then we slowly added more instruments. We've had as many eight pieces at times, but I still play as a duo sometimes."
The Mad Dog Blues Duo, which pairs Friedman with Bill "Big Willie" Palmer, recently worked with the Sing Me a Story Foundation to record a song, "Keep on Keepin' On." It's based on a creative tale called "The Studio" that was submitted by an eight-year-old boy from Arizona as part of a fundraiser for Native American children in need, put on by the Phoenix Indian Center.
Check out the song at the Sing Me a Story Foundation website.