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What you see is what you get when singer-songwriter Dean Madonia takes the stage. In faded jeans, a comfortable T-shirt, and old Nikes, Madonia and his pop-rock songs are as easygoing and fan-friendly as those of his major influences, Paul Simon and James Taylor. Like them, Madonia weaves personal experiences into songs about loss, rites of passage, and -- of course -- love. Sound old-fashioned? Maybe, but that doesn't bother Madonia.

"Everybody's so damn mad all the time," he says about today's popular bands. "I'm happy." So what's his advice to those perturbed young souls? "Life has a certain amount of suckage, so get used to it and stop bitching!"

Madonia's debut CD, Deep Sky, which will be released May 25, steers clear of the angry-young-man thing, mainly because Madonia isn't in that frame of mind. "I don't feel comfortable writing about what I don't feel comfortable about," he says. "I have to write about what I know."

Noteworthy tracks on Deep Sky include a moving, Elton John-esque, piano-and-strings song called "Without a Net," which is about a woman Madonia knew, loved, and tragically lost. "The Big Crunch (Stephen Says)," is a trippy ode to scientist and writer Stephen Hawking and the opinions expressed in his book A Brief History of Time.

The hard-working Madonia has many weekly solo gigs: Shenanigan's Sports Pub in Hollywood Wednesday and Thursday; Mulvaney's Irish Pub in West Palm Beach Friday; and Tuna's Waterfront Grill in Miami Saturday. But he also performs with the newly formed Dean Madonia Band, which includes Cory Mauro on bass, Scott Tryon on drums, Jimmy Ruccolo on guitar, and Michael Waxman on keyboards.

The group will compete in a Battle of the Bands contest at Chili Pepper this Sunday and perform at Madonia's CD-release party at the Poor House May 24. Both clubs are located in Fort Lauderdale.

For more information on Madonia, including where you can get his CD, Deep Sky, visit his Website at ~madonia/deep.htm. And when you see him at a local gig, ask him why fans and friends call him Underdog, or at least get ready to make a request; Madonia's list of covers contains 179 songs.

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Brian Hyman

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