'Dudes' positive attitude

Multi-faceted band's CD an homage to happy times `Behind the Levee'


Talk about coincidence.

In May 2005, blues, rock and zydeco band the Subdudes cut an album about growing up, family, loss and having fun. The first track, "Papa Dukie and the Mud People," was about a roving group of hippies who set up camp by a Mississippi River levee, near the homes of a couple of Subdudes members.

The Subdudes, who play the Hot August Blues Festival on Saturday, named the album Behind the Levee. A few months later, Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, the levees failed, and the city was devastated.

"Isn't it crazy?" said bassist and guitarist Jimmy Messa. "Synchronicity is a crazy thing."

For Subdudes' singer/guitarist Tommy Malone and percussionist Steve Amedee, going behind the levee meant getting away from their parents, fooling around with girls and playing music, Messa said.

"If we were behind the levee, we could have fun," he said. "And then when the event happened, `levee' took on a whole new meaning."

Back Porch, the band's record label, was a little hesitant about the album title after the hurricane struck, and asked band members if they wanted to change it. The band said no.

"It's kind of giving positive spin back to the levee," Messa said. "We didn't mean it as the levee's breaking and flooding. We meant it as the levee was a cool place to hide you from the harshness of the world."

Behind the Levee was the second album cut since the Subdudes re-formed in 2004. Four musicians originally got together in 1987 and played for about 10 years. Then the original lineup parted ways for a couple years, until three of the founding members recruited Messa and percussionist Tim Cook, and called themselves the dudes.

In 2003, they officially changed the band name back to the Subdudes. Miracle Mule, the first Subdudes album since 1997, came out in 2004. Behind the Levee dropped in January of this year and became a hit on indie radio stations across the country.

Because Malone and keyboardist John Magnie are such prolific writers, the band is already talking about the next album, Messa said. They're considering making it a country record, or an old New Orleans record like Little Richard used to make, but nothing's set in stone, he said. Blue Note became Back Porch's new parent company, and the band is looking forward to having the Northeast as a new option for recording.

"It's a good thing that our base will now be in New York, because of course it's a little bit more of a music mecca," Messa said.

But for the next few months, the Subdudes are focusing on touring.

"You kind of drop your little cares at the bottom of the steps and go up there and go crazy and be a fool and tell stories and you make them forget where they are for a minute," Messa said. "That's our job."

The Hot August Blues Festival is noon-10 p.m. Saturday at Oregon Ridge Park in Cockeysville. Tickets are $30 in advance and $35 at the gate. Children younger than 12 are admitted free. Call 877-321-3378 or visit hotaugustblues.com


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