The Blue Dogs Make an Elegant Return

Charleston City Paper | November 22, 2005
Charleston's popular oyster-roast-rock band The Blue Dogs celebrate a special anniversary this Friday with a return to the historic Dock Street Theatre, where the band recorded their first live album, Live at the Dock Street Theatre, in Aug. 1995. Houck, lead guitarist David Stewart, upright/electric bassist Hank Futch, and drummer Greg Walker, plan to document this weekend’s performance on a multi-track machine with full audio, video, and lighting production -- an even more elaborate production than that on their recent DVD, Live at the House of Blues.

The City Paper caught up with three of the Dogs last week and conducted interviews via a high-minded questionnaire:

CITY PAPER: What pops into your mind when you think back to that show at the Dock Street Theatre in 1995?

GREG WALKER: I was the new Dog on the block at that time, so it was exciting for me to be recording a live album in a theatre like that. I just wanted to put on a show and enjoy myself. I kept thinking, 'Don't screw up!'

DAVID STEWART: I wasn't even there that night! I joined in early '98, after the Dock Street album and the self-titled debut had come out. I'd been hearing about the Blue Dogs for years up in North Carolina. The Dock Street album was actually the first full album I ever heard by the band.

BOBBY HOUCK: The first thing that pops into my head is the production. I booked the show and coordinated the sound gear. I was stressed out 'cause I was kind of the stage manager and lead singer. And it was my little brother's wedding day! So when I think back, I remember the stress. When I listen to the album, I'm amazed I even pulled it off [laughs].

CP: What's the biggest difference between the Blue Dogs circa 1995 and the band today -- what has changed the most?

GW: The biggest difference is the amount of original material that we have. That live album included more covers than we have now.

DS: There's definitely a lot more electric guitar. The acoustic element is still a part of the band’s sound. I don't know if that's by design; it probably would have happened even if I didn't join.

BH: Greg was playing brushes the whole time at the gig. We thought of ourselves as sort of an acoustic trio with drums. Greg really made the case for having a drummer. Doing the album and show really sealed the deal, because he added so much. Now, of course, this lineup has been together for seven years without any interruption, so it's tight.

CP: What do you know now that wish you knew back then?

GW: I now know how everybody works together in this band. The chemistry is all natural now. We're not a band that has everything charted out, so a lot of our spontaneous energy comes from that. Back then, I was more of a new member. Now I'm a co-leader, a real teammate.

DS: I wish I had been a better country/bluegrass guitarist [back then].

BH: I definitely know that we have our production under control. We went into it so naively. We're a bit more organized now. But, you know, we're the Blue Dogs: we're really not too technical.

CP: The City Paper recently described your sound as a "decidedly Southern style of contemporary country-rock" -- how accurate is that?

GW: That pretty much wraps it up. We draw from a lot of styles of music. We do everything; we hit the spectrum. I come from a background of funk and Motown, and was raised on that classic stuff. I wasn't into bluegrass back in the day, you know. As a drummer, I didn't get it...'cause there ain't no drums in bluegrass!

DS: I would say that's super-accurate. To me, we are an American rock band in the way that Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers are an American rock band.

BH: That description is good and general enough. I think we have a unique sound that's clear to fans, while some people in the industry see us as generic or light. Ultimately, it's the combination of traditional and bluegrass sounds that Hank really knows mixed in with the Bob Dylan, classic rock, and all that stuff that I draw from.

CP: What's your prediction for the anniversary show in November 2015?

GW: I will probably be a part of the "New Blue Dogs Funk & Motown Revue" [laughs]!

DS: I predict the four of us will still be together and we'll have a much bigger catalog of music. We're four irreplaceable personalities. I can't imagine anyone else in their place. It'll be a little bit tighter and a little bit bigger.

BH: Oh, man, I’ll be 50! I predict we'll still be playing at some level.

Charleston City Paper

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