Mississippi's Blue Mountain has regrouped after splintering few years back, done in by divorce, disappointing sales, and overall malaise. It's easy to see why a band with such great promise could have let a series of heartbreaks get to them. But like the Black Crowes, Blue Mountain is back, and we are all the better for it.
This trio was a buzz band a decade ago garnering widespread praise. None other than the late, great Larry Brown penned liner notes for the band's Homegrown record back in 1997:
I took their last CD, Dog Days, with me on vacation down to Gulf Shores, Alabama, this past summer. I'd been listening to it for months in my room at home, and I remember the evening my kids found it and put it on the jambox and sat out on the balcony of the condo listening to it. I went out there and at with them in the warm Gulf wind, with that music I loved so much playing in a different place, to new ears, and I cloud see that they loved it, too. Over the next three days they tried to wear that CD out playing it. My kids are 21, 17, and 14, and since I'm 45, I think that says a lot about Blue Mountain's music right there.
It does indeed.
Blue Mountain sound springs from Mississippi, melding Hill Country blues with Scots-Irish folk leanings and good old slide-driven southern rock. There isn't a whole lot not to like in that mix.
Leader Cary Hudson remains a singular talent - awesome slide player, great vocalist, talented songwriter. Hudson and Blue Mountain combine bluesy grit with a southern sense of delicate fragility. Blue Mountain display all of this talent on Midnight in Mississippi.
Dallas native and Memphis studio vet Stuart Sikes produced this record. For Blue Mountain, this was a very good decision. Midnight emerges as their most professional sounding recording they've made since Dog Days, maybe ever. Sikes grounds Blue Mountain in a more folky sound - building from the shimmer of acoustic guitars out.
"Groove Me" starts festivities off with a summery vibe. "By Your Side", which appeared previously on Cary Hudson solo album, follows and fits and sounds better here. It is a song about standing by one another and how two can do what one cannot - a perfect sentiment for this reunion.
"She's a Wild One" tells a raucous tale of Mexican adventure sounding like a Joe Ely outtake. The electric guitar quotient further picks up with the title track, a punk blues rocker set in their home state.
"Butterfly" and "Pretty Please" reveal the underrated pop sensibility of the band. The former has a "Little Wing" feel to it while "Pretty" channels Van Morrison creating an intricate mix of B3 swells behind acoustic slide and poignant vocals. Both feature fantastic guitar work from Hudson.
Blue Mountain's last studio album, Roots, found them diving into truly old time music as they covered Scots-Irish folk songs. "Free State of Jones" take those influences and connects the past with the present.
The record finishes with "Skinny Dipping" sounding like something straight out of the Hill Country jooks.
Blue Mountain never got their proper due when they came on the scene. Midnight In Mississippi proves they remain a vital Southern band linking the deepest branches of the Footprint's musical traditions into one seamless sound.
- Jim Markel