“Get Your House in Order” from the album Get Your House in Order
“I’ve discovered new things in music along the way, but I’ve never changed,” states Atlanta bluesman Danny “Mudcat” Dudeck. “It’s the same thing coming out of me. I still approach it the same way. When I first started, I learned five notes in a scale and then learned later that it was the pentatonic scale. It all just came naturally to me, especially hearing country and rock ‘n’ roll at an early age.”
The singer, guitarist, and bandleader is revered for his raw and edgy guitar playing and singing in his hometown of Atlanta. He’s a man comfortable with playing complicated slide guitar and belting out a few rhymes about bad love, booze, and life’s hard experiences.
Over the years, Mudcat developed a loyal following in the Charleston area as well. He strummed and crooned at many Lowcountry Blues Bash events, and hit old venues like Cumberland’s and the Windjammer. In recent years, he shared the stage a few times with former Atlanta colleague and close friend Skye Paige at A Dough Re Mi. This Friday — backed by core bandmates Eskill Wetterqvist on drums and Dave Roth on bass — marks his first show at Home Team BBQ in West Ashley.
“Danny is a blues legend in Atlanta,” says Paige, who’s also on the bill. “He is one of the best slide guitar players I have ever seen.”
Paige is excited about the show this Friday. She’s a “featured guest” singer. Other local players may sign on this week as well.
“It’s been a while since I’ve gigged hard in Charleston,” says Mudcat. “I haven’t been there on a regular basis in five or six years. When my band travels that far [to Charleston], I like to try to book another gig or so in the same area, rather than just one night. I don’t like just going from box to box, you know? I like it better when you get a chance to actually meet people and get a vibe for the place. Getting to explore the city and getting to know the culture there — whether it’s in Europe or the next state over, that’s the best.”
Mudcat was born in St. Paul, Minn., and grew up in Savannah. The 42-year-old started playing piano and guitar at home at an early age. He eventually began busking and collaborating with other musicians around Georgia. As a young man, he regularly strummed and picked on street corners and in cafés from Texas to New York City and back.
“The family that raised me had a piano,” he remembers. “I’d figure out what the chords to a song were, then translate the notes to guitar. That’s how I started learning. I’m more of a rough musician, maybe, homemade, I guess … I guess there are advantages to ignorance.
“Every situation is different,” he adds. “For me, it’s really fascinating. It’s always a challenge. I’d like to think that I continually communicate something real and get my feelings across to an audience every time. I pride myself on performing. I think a lot of it comes from playing on the streets, where you don’t really make a lot of money.”
Mudcat’s latest collection is a rough-edged jam session titled Get Your House in Order. Released in 2006, it’s his seventh studio album in 10 years. He and his band recorded virtually live to tape (“no overdubs, no punches, no tricks”) at Zero Return Studios in Atlanta over the course of three days — or, as Mudcat puts it, two serious sessions and one with “30 girls and a bunch of gin, champagne, and whiskey in the room”). The 11-song album includes a cover of late blues-gospel artist Cootie Stark’s “Jiggaro.”
Mudcat cites some of his earliest influences as “old school jazz men” — cats like Kenny Palmer, a Savannah-based composer and arranger who played piano, trumpet, guitar, and sax, known best as one of big band leader Johnny Mercer’s side men. Sam Gill, a Georgia big band and Dixieland band leader and musician, is another important figure. Their swigngin’ music may account for the healthy dose of animated jazz and Vaudeville in his current material.
Among the Georgia and Carolina blues characters who influenced and inspired him the most are Stark (a Greenville, S.C. native often referred to as the “King of the Piedmont Blues”), the late player Neal Pattman (an Athens, Ga., singer whose one-armed harmonica playing and soulful vocals were legendary across the region), and guitarist Cora Mae Bryant (the daughter of Georgia guitar legend Curley Weaver).
“In Atlanta, I’ve met a lot of older musicians and made some associations with some of what you’d call the pioneers of blues and American music,” Mudcat says. “I’ve been able to apprentice with them, and organize some shows and things. I have great friendships and strong experiences. Those have been profound influences on my life and my music.
“I am a rich musician — but maybe not in the way some may think,” he adds. “I’ve got more of just about everything that I need. I’ve got more guitars than I need. I’ve got more in my belly … I have way more than I probably deserve.”