Blue Mountain – Schubas (Chicago, IL)
Of all the reunions announced these recent years, none was more unexpected than the second coming of Blue Mountain.
During the glory years of alt-country — after Uncle Tupelo and before, say, Jenny Lewis — Blue Mountain released five studio albums. Being Mississippians, their tough country punk pollinated with rough-and-tumble country blues, resulting in a sound not just loud and thick, but with a rich folk sensibility, too.
At first blush, Blue Mountain’s sudden summer reunion carries the hallmarks of any band resurrecting the brand with no new album or special anniversary to celebrate, other than it’s a sure-fire way to pay some bills that accumulated in their absence. But that notion disappeared midway through their show on this night. With a set that lasted over two hours, Blue Mountain played to the near-capacity crowd as if chasing after the unfinished business left to dry in their breakup.
Consider it a bookend to March 11, 2001, a show at this same venue that was captured on a posthumous live album. The trio — guitarist Cary Hudson and bassist Laurie Stirratt (a former couple by marriage) plus drummer Frank Coutch — more or less staked a defiant claim on one of music’s most incongruous genres: indie-rock from the south, where the guitar jams in the songs are compounded by their literary worth.
There was in ghost in the house and it was Crazy Horse. Huddled together rather than set apart, Hudson and Stirratt opened with “Bloody 98”, a speed-punk workout that was sinewy but muscular, as was “Black Dog”. Maybe it’s because he’s been drawing from a tamer form of folk music in recent years, but Hudson played as if rediscovering the dynamics and wide vocabulary of his electric guitar, using the material as a means to push through glory-bound solos, drenched in the blues but accelerated by a small arsenal of effects. Stirratt and Coutch rarely lightened their combined crunch, providing a bedrock for songs that did not relax.
Blue Mountain drew heavily from Dog Days, their second album, the one that took them out of Mississippi for the first time. A highlight was “A Band Called Bud”, with its buzzsaw guitar lead, stomping beat and shout-along chorus. Given the excessive nature of their lengthy set, they also demonstrated a sweet versatility, from the catchy country-pop of “Blue Canoe” to the speed-bluegrass anthem “Jimmy Carter”
Like everything played that night, Blue Mountain performed those songs as if stakes were high and this was the last opportunity to make things right. Such a double-shot of urgency is hard to come by — a sensation made true by the lump hitting your throat.