"It sounded good right from the start," says cheery, bearded, singer/guitarist Carey Hudson, of the remarkable reunion of his Mississippi-based band Blue Mountain. "It came so natural and easy."
After 10 years of hard work, Blue Mountain — a beloved cool-strummin' roots-rock act — officially broke up in the fall of 2001. Since 1991, the solid core of Hudson and bassist Laurie Stirratt produced five memorable albums (four for the Roadrunner label). The sorely overlooked country-blues blast Roots, released on their own label, Black Dog Records, became their swansong.
"Laurie and I played for years in another band called The Hilltops before we got involved as a couple," says Hudson. "We kept Blue Mountain going for a year and a half after we split up as a couple, so having some time in between to sort things out on a personal level was kind of necessary. Regardless of what happened, we were always good friends and bandmates. There are plenty of models in rock 'n' roll to look at, you know? Fleetwood Mac is the classic example. John Doe and Exene Cervenka of X are another."
Nobody saw it coming — the recent reforming of Blue Mountain. But after seven years apart, Hudson and Stirratt re-enlisted longtime drummer Frank Coutch for a short series of one-off shows last fall. The positive response encouraged the trio to push ahead.
"Laurie says it was like putting on an old pair of shoes," chuckles Hudson. "I dunno if I like that analogy or not because old shoes tend to stink. But it really was comfortable and easy. We've been playing for 10 years and we've played over 1,000 gigs together. That makes a big difference."
Hudson, 43, first became a serious member when he joined the Oxford, Miss., college cover band the Hi-Tops, which featured future Wilco founder John Stirratt (Laurie's twin brother).
"John Stirratt had started the Hi-Tops with a cousin of mine," remembers Hudson. "Then my cousin quit and I signed on. Then we added Laurie. John left and Laurie and I formed the Hilltops. Really, I've never been in a serious band that didn't include a Stirratt twin ... it's kind of funny."
With their personal problems resolved and their chops polished, Blue Mountain recently wrapped a productive session at Elmwood Recording in Dallas with producer Stuart Sikes (Cat Power, White Stripes, Loretta Lynn). They're set to release two full-length albums of new material this summer.
"One of the things we realized after taking a long break is that whenever you have good musical history and chemistry, it's a kind of special thing and it's hard to replace. It's something that anyone in a long-running band has experienced.
"At the end of the day, we walked away after putting 10 years into it, and we didn't own most of our masters from the Roadrunner records. We weren't making much money off of them, either. As a business thing and as a personal thing, we decided to try to make some new music together. I doubt we'll hit as hard as we did before. We're all a bit older. I have a five-year-old now, so riding around in a van for months at a time is not as appealing. Working on new music and revisiting some of our old catalog is high priority."
The frontman reassures fans that Blue Mountain's live sound hasn't lost any of the twang or soul of their previous work. That cool mix of classic guitar-rock, hillbilly gospel, vintage country, and countrified blues is still intact. Does he still feel connected to that '90s movement nicknamed "alt-country" or "Americana?" Only peripherally.
"I would just call what we do rock 'n' roll or southern rock," he says. "Blue Mountain is about as alt-country as the Rolling Stones. I was never one of those guys who was offended by the 'alt-country' tag, or felt like it put us in a box," Hudson says. " I loved those original bands who were thrown into that category, like The Jayhawks or Uncle Tupelo. Who wouldn't want to be associated with those?"