Blue Mountain, just recently reunited, is one of your perfectly fun, punchy, energetic live bands. Beginning with the alt-country explosion in the '90s, they were on top of the wave, even making the front cover of No Depression immediately after Uncle Tupelo. In fact, one of Blue Mountain's founding members, Laurie Stirratt is the twin sister of long-time Wilco member John Stirratt. And as you probably know, Wilco, along with Son Volt are the two offshoots of Uncle Tupelo, both of which often toured with Blue Mountain.
Speaking with Laurie by phone recently, on her way back to home base of Oxford, Miss., Laurie explained the reforming and recharging of the band. In the '90s, the band exemplified the best in active, passionate country.
They performed literate music; tunes with both brain and backbone. Actually, according to Laurie, "We're a rock band; we're just a three-piece rock band, with that kind of a sound."
Expanding a bit, they sound country, even trad-like, but they're rooted in rock, specifically, foot-stomping rock. "We used to play some acoustic on occasion, but we're really a three-piece rock band. We do a lot of '70s rock on up -- those influences plus combinations of rock and country blues." Included in those '70s influences are people like Bob Dylan and Neil Young. Blue Mountain guitarist Cary Hudson has said he admired the Sex Pistols, Patti Smith and Television.
Asked if they were familiar with the North Mississippi blues explosion Laurie answered, "Oh yeah, we used to go to Junior Kimbrough's place all the time." Junior Kimbrough, before his recent death ran a famous, funky juke joint near Holly Springs featuring himself, as well as Fat Possum legends R.L. Burnside and T Model Ford among others.
Blue Mountain band members are Laurie Stirratt who sings and plays bass, while ex-husband Cary Hudson sings and handles guitar. Long time drummer Frank Crouch is the third member.
All originally hail from Mississippi or Louisiana and obviously had time to soak up blues, country and rock influences. Playing together for over a decade obviously strained their marriage and their last recording, "Tonight It's Now or Never," a live band appearance in 2002 at Schubas in Chicago, prophetically marked their last appearance as a band and sadly as a couple, as well.
Other recordings are varied but always have some traditional tunes with a modern, punkier edge.
For example their second recording, Dog Days recorded in 1995 was produced by the Del-Lords/Roscoe's Gang, Eric "Roscoe" Ambel, who dependably provided a rough hewn, ragged approach to countryish rock -- think Backsliders, Bottle Rockets.
Home Grown from 1997 was another Ambel produced epic of feverish, down-home skronk. This is not the Eagles, but more like the Carter Family meeting the Drive-By Truckers. This traditional overlay is even more apparent on Roots, released in 2001. On this release, the band recorded solely public domain standards, all with their own rowdy Blue Mountain twist, always emphasizing drinking, violence and death. In fact, the best songs are about whiskey, "Little Stream of Whiskey" being one and "Rye Whiskey" being the other.
Laurie explains that after the breakup, she also recorded with twin brother John, from Wilco. "We released a record in 2003. Until then we hadn't had much time together. We released Arabella on our label, Broadmoor. It's pretty ethereal, really. It's folky and a little weird -- an acoustic based record." During this time, she also played with another Mississippi band, then moved to Chicago, worked with her Broadmoor label, started another short-lived band -- Healthy White Baby (with former Blacks, Danny Black) -- prior to rejoining Blue Mountain. Cary was busy as well releasing several solo CD's in five years -- from 2001 through 2006.
What brought them back together were a couple of requests from promoters to perform at festivals. Finally, they played Twangfest in St. Louis last June and everything came together. "It was obvious it was still there. We sounded good as it ever did, maybe even better."
Touring this fall, through October, the band has a plan. Tour now, then into the studio.
Alt-country may be evolving but Blue Mountain, now back together, picks up where they left off. "We didn't want to take an unnatural course." As she said earlier, "We're just a three-piece rock band."
Blue Mountain will perform at Visulite Theatre on Oct. 4 at 10 p.m. Tickets are $12.