A showcase at Ashland Coffee & Tea last fall revealed much more, especially why Hodgson feels he shouldn’t be billed as just a blues player. Simply said, one genre cannot capture the muse that drives this musician.
At Ashland, his “Catch Me When I Fall,” with its “Thrill Is Gone” feel, was laced with testosterone and urgency. The unabashedly bold strokes later gave way to the essence of restraint with a soulful reading of The Band’s “It Makes No Difference.” Another original, a chugging boogie, fueled by a little extra ZZ Top octane, outlined some of his musical influences. First there was Little Walter Jacobs: Hodgson threw in an eye-popping Chicago-style harp solo. Then there was Sonny Terry: He emulated the acoustic whoops and asymmetrical phrasings of Terry. Then there was Toots Thielemans, and he provided some tasteful chromatic jazz phrasings, which somehow still fit into the boogie framework. And finally, there was the epiphany of Motown, and he offered up some Detroit vamping to show one more component of his musical soul.
As the night wore on, the set offered a veritable road map of great American music. On many cuts, Hodgson, also a fine guitarist, lays down the harps and simply picks and sings. There are Bo Diddley beats and moments of over-the-top abandon, such as when as a roaring train blues instrumental meets bluegrass’ “Orange Blossom Special.” There are chestnuts like “Me and Bobby McGee,” and surprises like an acoustic version of Cream’s “White Room.” Hodgson is a veritable chameleon through all of this, channeling the paint-peeling vocal stylings of Son House on one cut, and offering delicate Piedmont fingerpicking on another.
Hodgson admits he’s “pretty eclectic” and offers an analogy for what he does. “If Hank Williams and Muddy Waters were in the same band together as co-leaders,” he explains, “that’s what I’ve honed in on, because there’s blues and country in both, and both were breaking ground and tearing down barriers.”
While Hodgson’s is a new name around here, having his Richmond coming-out party at Poe’s, home of the Biker Breakfast, is appropriate, for Muddyharp is well known among the biker community. Hodgson led the house band at the Boothill Saloon in Daytona Beach, Fla., for four years, which he characterizes as “the most famous biker club in the world.” He is also a regular attraction at Daytona’s annual Biketoberfest. A singular talent, Hodgson deserves to be known around here as well. S
Mark “Muddyharp” Hodgson plays Poe’s Pub, 2706 E. Main St., July 9 at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $5 at the door.
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