It’s been nine years since Blue Mountain has played a show. For their 30th anniversary, they’ve reunited for two special performance – one in Oxford and one in Waverly, Alabama for the Fall Boogie at the Standard Deluxe.
It’s been a good year for reunions in the genre. I recently wrote about Slobberbone and Centro-matic reuniting for Shoals Fest, as well as Drive-By Truckers and Jason Isbell sharing a bill for the first time since Isbell’s departure from the former in 2007.
Ahead of the once-in-a-blue-moon Blue Mountain show descending on Waverly this weekend, I spoke to frontman Cary Hudson about why the band decided to celebrate its 30th year and the legacy of music that it created.
What inspired y’all to get back together and do it after all this time?
You know, it’s been 30 years since we started the group and I think Laurie (Stirratt, bassist) and I–we’re both busy doing other parts of our lives; obviously after nine years, you’ve got other things going on–but we wanted to get together and celebrate a milestone. She and I still get along great and we’re very proud of our catalog and the work we did together. So it’s more than just trying to get together and go for a tour; it’s more, “Let’s get together and celebrate our legacy.”
It’s quite a legacy. There was something really special going on in Mississippi in alt-rock and Americana in the 90s. What was that like from your side of the state line?
At the particular time, we were based out of Oxford. It was a great creative time; more than just a great time for Americana music. Oxford was kind of a cultural high water mark. The people we were hanging out with at the time were writers like Barry Brown and Barry Hannah and the music we would go see on our off days, like Sunday, was Junior Kimbrough and R.L. Burnside playing 20 miles away in Marshall County.
We started off a little bit punk rock and became Americana. There was a really good jam band in town that included two future members of Widespread Panic. It was a really big arts scene here at the time. The Americana thing was happening at the same time, nationally, but as far as where we happened to be, it was just kind of a time that the arts were really flourishing.
There was a period about a decade later where all of that momentum there and over here in Florence, Alabama faded at the same time. What happened?
That’s a really good question. Any kind of artistic movement–whether that was San Francisco in the 60s or Paris in the 30s has its lifespan–and as much as anything else, it kind of ran through its lifespan. I have pretended to be a professional musician and play the songs from that time ever since, and there’s people–Drive-By Truckers were playing during that same time period and a lot is going on with them; Wilco is still out there–so it’s still out there. But it seem like what there was not was a lot of younger people coming up to keep it going or fill the ranks. It kind of was what it was and I kind of think of it as being the lifespan of any art. It was really exciting to do things like play punk rock inspired country music. That was a fresh idea and after it’s been done a while, it becomes something else.
I was talking to Jason Ringenberg lately about how now there is a newfound appreciation for that style. Do you feel any kind of vindication or validation seeing a new audience seeking out that music?
It’s super cool that it’s remembered fondly and that people have recognized it as something worth remembering and something worth preserving the legacy of–I’m not talking about the bands I was in so much as the bands we were hanging out and touring with. Uncle Tupelo and the Jayhawks and the Bottle Rockets. I knew it was good. I didn’t need anyone to say, “Hey this is really cool.” I knew it was. You can’t judge your own work, but judging the work of the people that we were around, it was like, “Wow. This is cool.” And I still very much am totally cool and proud to be affiliated with that time period and that stamp of country/Americana. Some people resisted the tags and stuff, and that’s cool. But I was honestly just proud to be a part of it.
There’s been a big renaissance out your way in Water Valley. What’s that been like? Have you been able to check out any of those bands?
No. I haven’t. Ironically, I’m now based out of Hattiesburg and New Orleans. I lived in Water Valley for ten years when it the quintessential podunk, redneck town in North Central Mississippi. The concept that it would become a hipster mecca is odd to me. But I love it. I think what happens sometimes–I was talking to a friend about this recently, talking about Oxford back at that time–it’s still a great place to be. But developing artists have to have cheap rent to get their careers started. So that’s probably what Water Valley offered as opposed to Oxford. I think that spark that was happening in Oxford probably moved out there for that reason. Cheaper rent.
You’re obviously busy with your own thing, but do you see this leading to more shows or is this just a one-time thing?
For the moment, it’s a one-time thing. Since Blue Mountain went our separate ways–we had done six albums and I’ve done six solo albums. So for me, I’m deep on this trajectory that includes the Blue Mountain catalog, but also includes a catalog twice that big. I couldn’t go back to focusing on just that. And Laurie is busy with a culinary career.
Do you find ways to include your solo music in a Blue Mountain show or are they separate entities for you?
They’re mostly different entities. They’re not that far apart stylistically, even though they are. The music I did with Blue Mountain was done in my 20s and early 30s. I’m now 58. Back then, I was a punk rocker and now I’m an old blues guy.
Fall Boogie No. 9 is at Standard Deluxe on Saturday, October 16. Early James kicks off the music at noon followed by Janet Simpson, Lee Bains III and the Glory Fires, Blue Mountain and Maggie Rose. Separate events are also taking place on Friday and Sunday. Click here to learn more and purchase tickets online.