Mudmouth at Jim Porters

By Leonard January

I was in mud heaven on the night of September 12 at Jim Porter's. For show openers, da Mudcats, a local, down-and-dirty blues assemblage greased the path for headliner Kentucky HeadHunter Greg Martin and his band Mudmouth. Da Mudcats, made up of Rob Pickett on guitar, Jim Rosen on harmonica, Gene Wickliffe on drums, bassist Larry Holt and lead vocalist Susan O'Neil, were able to set the tone for the evening by playing some good hard roadhouse music. As I looked around the bar at Jim Porter's, I noticed that many "older" faces dotted the scenery. Some were definitely ageless musicians who had flocked in an area of the bar that seemed off limits to the regulars. As the crowd parted it was obvious what was drawing all the old cronies together -- Doug Cook, bass player, motorcycle guru and tattooed on every square inch of both arms, was recounting some hilarious rock and roll story. His appearance alone seemed to indicate, in my mind, a rising of the curtain, so to speak, on Louisville's blues music scene. Cook, who plays an ample bass for Mudmouth, looks like Keith Richards' younger (maybe older?) brother. He's got more lines on his face than two Atlas road maps. I mean, if you were going to look up "rock and roll" in the dictionary, there would probably be Doug Cook's picture. Cook seems to personify what Mudmouth and "hot-jammin'" rhythm and blues is all about -- endurance, stability, survival and permanence. To watch Cook flatback it on the stage and to see nothing but his pointed black boots kicking in space gives this writer the same surge of adrenalin running through the veins similar to that of watching Jimmy Connors kick butt in tennis matches. Greg Martin is utilizing his time off from his new found success with the Kentucky HeadHunters in a most edifying manner. he is able to keep his brilliant lead guitar work well tuned as well as build a separate following of his own ... just in case. Rounding out the rest of Mudmouth is slide guitarist Kenny Smith. Smith is probably one of the hottest slide men in the area and could easily lead a group of his own to glory. Regrettably, I was unable to get the drummer's and background vocalists' names, but I will say that their contributions to the faultless rhythm and timing of the band was obvious. A guest appearance by the omnipresent Sam Bush of New Grass Revival fame added an interesting but clouded effect on the group. Bush is top notch on his mandolin but he lacks the creativity on lead guitar to sustain any prolonged interest. I would much rather have seen Bush push his leads on a mandolin and see what the effect would be. In any event, it was an event to behold. There is something about an evening where the smoke is being shoved around by people dancing to a great blues band. It's not like disco used to be, where you had to have eighteen hundred original steps to look somewhat respectable. It's unlike the uniformed gyrations of MTV dancejocks. In most cases dancing to the blues only requires the positioning of two somewhat erect humans, holding three bottles of beer, sharing one cigarette while the eyes and neck roll back and forth. This is a good time.