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Review: The Subdudes - Live and Acoustic

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The Subdudes
Live and Acoustic
Biographica Films and Recordings

Live and Acoustic comprises a well rounded cinematic visit with the pleasantly eclectic Louisiana-based roots group the Subdudes. The Live half of the package features an intimate gig at Annapolis Maryland's Ram's Head, a cozy venue that lends the performance the clubby feel of a VIP outing. After being introduced by an emcee with a British accent, who urges the crowd "to get behind them" for the documentary's filming, the band, with the help of the eccentric-looking John Magnie who mock conducts using a drumstick (in place of a baton), launches into the harmony-rich "Poor Man's Paradise."

Throughout the set, the group's soulful, lushly vocalized, often gospel-tinged, songs flow one to the next, segued by affable and mostly amusing stage banter led by main vocalist Tommy Malone. Other pleasing numbers on this portion include a somewhat laid-back pass through "Papa Dukie and the Mud People," pleasing versions of the 'dude classics "Light in Your Eyes," and "All the Time in the World," as well as the movingly reflective "Carved in Stone," which is dedicated to Malone's father.

The Acoustic portion of the two-disc offering explains the origins of the band's name. In its previous incarnations as the Continental Drifters (and before that, the Percolators), the group was often told that it was too loud. Thus, the collective eventually decided it would be a good idea to be a bit more "subdued." Alas, the notion and the name stuck and the band dialed it down, exchanging the drums for a tambourine and light percussion, and the rest is roots rock history.

The unplugged portion examines the 'dudes' penchant for amusingly low-tech instrumentation (including spoons, soda cans, etc), investigates its songwriting process/prowess (group vs. individual), includes an informative visit to the storied Blackbird Studio in Nashville (engagingly impressive in terms of its cutting-edge acoustics), features some relaxed living room performances (including an up-close version of "Poor Man's Paradise"), and generally provides a behind-the-scenes look at what makes the band tick. The disc also allows for a closer-than-usual look at each of the guys: Malone (lead vocals and guitar), Magnie (vocals, keys, accordion), Steve Amedee (vocals, percussion), Tim Cook (harmony vocals, bass) and Jimmy Messa (bass, guitar and vocals).

Overall, the DVD package serves as both a good primer on the band for the non-initiated and a must-have document for longtime fans.

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