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Music review: The Piedmont Playboys at Darwin's January 17, 2014

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Mudcat leans comfortably back in his chair on the Darwin's stage like he has no bones. With his comfortably loose clothing and trademark hat on his head, he looks like the musicians I used to see playing on the front porch of the moonshiner's house I lived next to years ago in North Carolina. His long fingers play the capo over the guitar strings, darting over and under in an intricate dance that looks as though he was born knowing it. Dan Dan "The Healing Man" plays the spoons along the washboard and Shannon Kirk sits and strums the bass with careless grace.

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After a few songs and outrageous stories, Mudcat introduces his "little sister" from the audience and she joins the group from the crowd. I don't catch her name and it's not possible to know if she is really his sister. Mudcat's reality is very flexible and as his sister jokingly says at one point ,"Any word out of your mouth may be a lie." But for this space of time, anyway, she is definitely a sister, one with a lovely, soulful voice.

No one stands to play in this group. Everyone is seated, except when they get up at one point to do a little comic dance. It gives everything a very down-home, comfortable sort of feel.

Hobo the harmonica player is very late. He gets there about and hour and a half into the show but when he does a very good show becomes an exceptional show in my view because I believe every great blues band needs a harp player. Once Hobo arrives the place becomes energized and people are up and dancing. At one point, Jacob Holliday, not playing but actually listening this time (Jake tends to sit in with a lot of groups), gets up and does a joyful jig all alone for a few minutes. It is a delightful moment in a delightful evening, catching the impromptu joy that good alcohol and good music in the right measure can create.

My favorite song of the evening is The Piedmont Playboys' rendition of Jerry Jeff Walker's "Up Against The Wall Red-Necked Mother" which becomes "Up Against the Wall Red-Necked Mama" in this truly epic rendition. But every song and every story just melded together to make one phenomenal night of entertainment.

Mudcat plays several times a week at Northside Tavern and elsewhere around Atlanta, either solo or with a bunch of different musicians who sometimes include the Atlanta Horns, but this newer musical combination is a classic. The Piedmont Playboys (and Playgirl) are a talented bunch of musicians with a leader who just automatically makes you feel good. Seeing them is a guaranteed good time, and it was our joy to see them at Darwin's. Get yourself to wherever they are playing locally next. You'll be so glad you did!


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