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Rabble Rousers

Live Shot of the Atomic Duo at the Cactus Cafe

By Jim Caligiuri, 11:48AM, Thu. Mar. 29, 2012

The Atomic Duo, Silas Lowe (l) and Mark Rubin, live at the Cactus Cafe 3.28.12
The Atomic Duo, Silas Lowe (l) and Mark Rubin, live at the Cactus Cafe 3.28.12
photo by Jim Caligiuri

If the music thing doesn’t work out, the Atomic Duo should consider becoming a comedy act. At the Cactus Cafe Wednesday night there were several belly laughs in reaction to the stories and onstage antics of Mark Rubin and Silas Lowe. There were also a couple of noticeable groans.

"It's not an act," Rubin explained. "This is the way we are."

Celebrating their new Lloyd Maines-produced CD Broadsides, the local Duo brought a serious side as well. Ultimately, it was all folk music, performed on two National Resophonic instruments, Lowe a mandolin, Rubin a guitar; occasionally raw and noisy, sometimes swinging, always genuine and perceptive.

There were political songs about coal mining disasters and rabble rousers. There were love songs as well as what Rubin called “dating advice from a morbidly obese middle-age man.” One highlight was when the Duo stepped out of the spotlight to allow Ben Hodges and Sean Tracy of the Austin Steamers to sing a Lowe/Rubin tune. Hodges and Tracy’s harmonies were traditional bluegrass smooth.

Over the course of two sets, you were never quite certain what the Duo was going to pull out of its bag of tricks next, something in ragtime, maybe a dirge. As such, Lowe and Rubin don’t actually harmonize as much as empathize with one another which occasionally added weight to their populist message.

One thing was certain though. Whatever direction they took, it was ridiculously entertaining. That's just the way they are.

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