The Garage, Washington, DC • November 17, 1999
The Oxford, Mississippi-based roots-rock band Blue Mountain pulled into the Garage recently for a tune-up of songs from their terrific new CD, Tales of a Traveler . The relatively new DC club includes a stage with a metal garage door instead of a curtain and a sign on the way out that says “Thank you for letting the Garage service you.” Music fans were well serviced on this night, with a solid set from the band led by the husband and wife team of Cary Hudson and Laurie Stirratt.
Opening with the Skynyrd-meets-X riff-o-rama “Poppa,” the band got the crowd going right away. Hudson and Stirratt then further displayed their John & Exene-like harmonies on the country-rock song “Lakeside,” a Tales highlight about leaving small town Mississippi for the bright lights of New Orleans. The band later turned up the volume and the guitars on “Room 829” as Hudson ripped into one of several excellent solos.
Perhaps the strongest part of the show began as Hudson & Stirratt strapped on acoustic guitars for the melodic “When You’re Not Mine” from Tales and the easy-going hippie anthem “Mountain Girl” from 1995’s Dog Days . The band seemed to gel on a galloping “Bloody 98” from 1997’s Homegrown and the bluesy guitar workout “My Wicked, Wicked Ways.” Hudson punched the wah-wah pedal for Homegrown ‘s “Babe,” a sweet song about marital bliss. And the set closing “Sleeping in My Shoes” featured more terrific guitar work from Hudson.
The newest member of Blue Mountain, bassist George Sheldon, took a vocal turn on the silly “From One Son of a Bitch to Another,” but otherwise stayed in the background as half of the solid but unremarkable rhythm section. The band passed around a box of oatmeal cookies as they left the stage.
In the encore, Blue Mountain pulled out “Mary Jane,” a song recorded for the Free The Weed benefit CD for the marijuana promoting organization NORML. They then returned to New Orleans for a fun cover of Elton John’s “Honky Cat.”
The fifty-minute opening set by Philadelphia band Marah focused on new material recorded for a forthcoming disc produced by Steve Earle. The band showed a knack for good blue-collar blues-rock on the new “Catfisherman,” which included a few lines from Bruce Springsteen’s “She’s the One.” Early Springsteen seemed to be a distinct influence on the band’s 1998 album, Let’s Cut the Crap & Hook Up Later On Tonight . The set closing “Eventually Rock” from that album was a highlight of the set. But missing were songs like Cut the Crap ‘s excellent “Formula, Cola, Dollar Draft” which feature lead singer and guitarist David Bielanko on banjo. The band definitely has the energy and the chops to go far. With a few better songs, Marah could be a band to watch. ◼