Howlin' Houndog hearkens to such artists as Captain Beefheart, Mojo Nixon, Sam the Sham and Tom Waits. - Photo courtesy of Vagrant Record

Meet Howlin' Houndog

Howlin' Houndog draws material for his schtick from blues, country and honky-tonk music. "It's as close to the blues as someone like me can get," says the Seattle-based musician, aka Erik 4-A. "There are many schools of blues. I call mine 'porch music.' "

Houndog will present a solo acoustic show at 9 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 29, at Alex's Plaza Restaurant and Bar, 35 N. Main St., Ashland.

Houndog doesn't know what his shows are going to sound like until he sits down in front of an audience, he says.

"I'm not what I call a blues artist," he says. "Blues is more about experience than playing note-for-note riffs by Stevie Ray Vaughn or Eric Clapton."

Stylistically, Houndog prefers the music of John Lee Hooker, Lightning Hopkins, Robert Johnson, Blind Willie McTell, Stick Mcghee and Tiny Grimes.

"Grimes was kind of a pioneer of early electric music," Houndog says. "He did jump blues, which is close to big-band blues."

He's also influenced by Captain Beefheart, Sam the Sham, Mojo Nixon and Tom Waits.

Houndog slips acoustic shows in between his performances with a full band, the Infamous Loosers.

"It's much more fancy," he says. "It's got a Chicago-style or electric blues sound that is full of keys and horns."

Houndog calls his touring act the Infamous Loosers because he travels solo and hires local musicians to back him at each stop.

"It's whoever I can get," Houndog says. "They call it the Chuck Berry method of touring."

Howlin' Houndog's newest CD, "The Adventures of Howlin' Houndog" on the artist's independent label, Vagrant Records of Seattle, Wash., showcases a full band, replete with a horn section, guitars and drums. Look for it at myspace.com/infamousloosers.

Houndog also uses a lineup of players in Seattle and in the San Francisco Bay Area.

"My previous CDs are acoustic and use minimal instruments," Houndog says. "They're usually cut live in my studio, with very little wizardry."

Erik 4-A has performed as Howlin' Houndog since 2006, but the personification of his character has existed since 1991.

"I started out just goofing around in my studio, making up voices," Houndog says. "A friend of mine told me it was good and convinced me that I should do this."

He took 4-A as his last name because everyone misspelled his real one.

"No one ever gets it right," he says. "It's been mangled in every interview. 4-A is the phonetic pronunciation of it. A friend of mine coined it in high school, and it stuck."

When 4-A gets on stage, however, Howlin' Houndog takes over.

"I take traditional songs, like 'House of the Rising Sun,' and play my own versions that go in totally different directions," he says. "I like to cut loose a bit and do my own thing for the solo shows. They give me a chance to perform acoustic material I can't play with a band."

There is no cover for the show at Alex's. Call 541-482-8818.

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