All right, I'll just get this out of the way — I can't quite be an objective reviewer about Blue Mountain. They were the soundtrack of my college years back in Oxford, Mississippi — a local alt-country band who were by far the best local band around and one of the best in the American South during the mid-1990s. Frontman Cary Hudson had a husky voice and a mean hand with the guitar, his bass player and wife Laurie Stirratt kept the groove on and provided charming backup vocals, and rowdy drummer Frank Coutch could slam with the best of them. Blue Mountain were the pinnacle to me of a great local band, friendly and open and they could always be counted on for a fine old show.
They never quite made it to the top level of the then-booming alternative country scene with bands like Uncle Tupelo, Whiskeytown, or the Jayhawks, but carved out a comfortable niche for themselves. Most importantly, they had sincerity, and genuine love for what they were doing – lord knows I saw them live enough times to get an appreciation for pulling the hard yards and endless touring it takes a band to succeed. I even drove six hours round-trip to catch them in San Francisco one frigid night after I'd moved away from Mississippi. I was sorry to hear that Blue Mountain broke up around 2001, after a run of excellent albums on Roadrunner Records. But here it is just a few years later, and Blue Mountain is back together giving it another go with not just one but two albums, the all-new Midnight In Mississippi and the compilation Omnibus.
Midnight In Mississippi is a solid comeback, although it doesn't quite break any new ground for the band. It's a fine collection of open-hearted alt-country tunes, switching between rowdy hoedowns and gentle ballads. Lyrically, it feels like the music of an older rocker looking at his wild youth and coming to terms with what lies ahead. Lots of the songs look backwards – one sugary sweet, slightly tongue-in-cheek number is even titled "'70's Song" and its gorgeous harmonies brings to mind the Carpenters.