Dog Days, Roadrunner CD RR8940-2, 1995
The genuine article, cut from Oxford cloth
It's nice to know that justice occasionally prevails in the music business,
that art is not always victim to commerce. Take a talented husband and wife
duo (Cary Hudson on guitar/mandolin/vocals and Laurie Stirratt on bass/vocals)
from Oxford, Mississippi, send them to L.A. to seek their fortune, and what
usually happens? In this case, they spend a disillusioning year-but don't
sell out-move back to Oxford, pick up a drummer (Frank Coutch), and sign
a record deal with major distribution for the release of Dog Days. Cool.
Blue Mountain mine the same laidback country-folk-rock sound that is
prompting indie bands the nation over to affect drawls and add country influences
to their music, thanks to the success of the "No Depression" movement,
led by the likes of Son Volt, Wilco, and the Jayhawks. (Not that we're against
the trend, understand. A twang will beat a whine six hands out of seven.)
Of course, playing this type of music is not as easy as putting on a beat-up
hat and hiring a steel guitar player, and one listen to Blue Mountain will
tell you that they're the genuine article.
Hudson's unassuming Delta twang is perfectly suited to a high and lonesome
acoustic ballad. "Eyes of a Child" and "Mountain Girl"
are relaxed tunes that reminisce about the simple joys of rural life. Direct
and simple, they include beatific country harmonies and wheezing harmonica,
but also have enough rough edges to keep them interesting. Elsewhere, Blue
Mountain pays folksy homage to fellow southerners Elvis Presley ("Epitaph")
and Jimmy Carter ("Jimmy Carter") without getting too sentimental.
Beneath its friendly veneer, Dog Days also has plenty of bite. Reprising
Neil Young's riff from Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's "Ohio,"
"Let's Ride" perfectly captures the willful abandon and promise
of the open road. The chugging "Hippy Hotel" features chicken
pickin' guitars and poignant lyrics that lament land developers who are
tearing down a decrepit hotel ("When they clear away the wreck/They're
going to raise the roof on a discotheque/Mirror balls and woofers cranked
to 10"). "Soul Sister" has some Outlaws-style (you heard
right) guitar work and tells a tale of lost young love. The wistful "Let's
Go Runnin'" features bluesy slide work and forlorn lyrics ("Have
you ever had a stranger/On the corner of your bed?").
With strong melodic skills, sure-handed lyrics, and fine instrumental
interplay, Dog Days is a good choice to get you through them lazy summer
afternoons. - Scott Boggan
Cary Hudson, guitar, harmonica, vocals; Laurie Stirrat, bass; Frank Coutch,
Produced by Eric "Roscoe" Ambel.