Kool Kat of the Week: Rod Hamdallah Plays the Blues Dark, Down and Dirty – Just the Way We Like It

Photo credit: Shawn Doughtie

ATLRetro has been hearing a lot about Kool Kat of the Week Rod Hamdallah—from his fellow local musicians. Like his mentor, the sadly deceased Sean Costello, he’s been playing since very young and early gained a reputation as an Americana blues guitar prodigy. By age 17, he was sharing the stage with Sean and Dexter Romweber, as well as opening for top contemporary blues, funk, soul, rockabilly and roots performers such as Robert Randolph and the Family Band, Rosie Flores, Romweber and more. He’s only 21 now.

Anyone who’s heard Rod live—and live is the way he should be heard—talks about the dark lyrics, full-throttle energy and deep swamp passion he puts into his heavy licks. That hard-edged sound has earned him comparisons to Skip James, Captain Beefheart, Charlie Patton, Tom Waits and more recently the White Stripes. He looks the part, too—thick dark pompadour, sideburns, usually dressed in black.

This year Rod’s released a couple of singles, “Think About It” and a cover of Skip James’ “Devil Got My Woman” and has been playing Atlanta and touring the Southeast furiously. You can catch him next at The Five Spot on Friday, Sept. 16. We caught up with him recently to find out more about what made his influences, teaming up with drummer and frequent collaborator Gabe Pline, what he’s got planned for this gig and those recordings we’re looking forward to.

What happened at age 16 to get you, a Jersey boy into punk rock and skateboarding, so revved up about Southern blues and Americana?

I’ve always loved traditional music and was interested in what influenced punk rock. When I moved to Atlanta, live music became something I was around all the time. I watched guys like Sean Costello play around town and immediately wanted to play blues  and traditional American music.

What about Donnie McCormick and Sean Costello made them such an influence on you in the early days?

Sean was a great mentor and friend. He let me share the stage with him when others didn’t. He also turned me on to Donnie McCormick. I loved the inspiration and soul that came from them. [Editor’s note: Read a tribute by Rod to Sean Costello here.]

Rod Hamdallah and Gabe Pline. Photo credit: Scott Livignale.

How did you hook up with Gabe Pline?

Gabe and I would play together once and a while at jams and etc. He was a good person to talk to, where we could relate on music and personal pasts. I’ve always loves Gabe’s style of playing and his attitude on stage. He is definitely a big part of where I am today.

Who are your biggest influences and how do you keep music with such deep Delta roots so fresh and contemporary?

I guess I have a lot of influences, but they are all important. Everything like chain gang songs, train-hopping songs, field hollers, Hank Williams [Sr.] pain songs to loud racket. I always loved the Delta blues artists Charlie Patton, Blind Willie McTell and Skip James. I love eerie dark music and Skip James had a big part in that. The ‘60s and ‘70s punk rock and rock and roll era has a big influence. Bands like Iggy and The Stooges, MC5, Captain Beefheart and The Sonics all play a big part in my music and live performance. I respect guys like Jack White who have a big impact with their music and creativity. Keeping traditional music alive.

Rod Hamdallah. Photo credit: Gabriel Pline.

You’ve been playing all over Atlanta from the Star Bar to Kathmandu to Hottie Hawgs, not to mention touring the Southeast quite a bit this year. What’s been your favorite gig so far this year and why?

I can’t say I’ve had one favorite show this year. I’ve had the pleasure of playing with so many bands and performers this year, local and in the Southeast. One show that comes to mind is The Riverwalk Blues and Music Festival I played earlier this year in Fort Lauderdale, FL. Got to play with some excellent musicians including Robert Randolph and The Family Band.

Do you have any special plans for Friday’s show?

Besides putting on a great show, Gabe and I are most likely playing a duo show (guitar and drums). We do that from time to time and have a great show.

Where will you be playing next in Atlanta?

Oct 22nd we’ll be performing at Darwin’s in Marietta before we hit the road to Florida.

Rod Hamdallah. Photo credit: Gabriel Pline.

You’ve released a couple of singles this year and I’ve heard your first full-length album is on the way. What can you tell us about it, and when is it scheduled for release?

Both of the singles I released will be on the next CD. We are leaning towards another EP and possibly a 7 inch 45 rpm with the singles that are out at the moment.

What do you when you’re not making music and recording?

I try to inspire myself, by listening to my favorite records and staying creative. My girlfriend and I have great relationship, and we try to have as much fun together as possible. She’s a big support.

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One Response to “Kool Kat of the Week: Rod Hamdallah Plays the Blues Dark, Down and Dirty – Just the Way We Like It”

  1. beadle
    on Sep 22nd, 2012
    @ 11:10 am

    Rod, long time no see, I hope to get by & see you tonight (sept. 22-12) @ Darwins, been out of the country for 6 months etc….later, beadle

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