Wednesday, August 25, 2004
Is there really a such thing as a "can't miss" show? Well, yes, any time Cary Hudson plays, there is. Many Mississippi music fans have long been familiar with Hudson and his genre-defying brand of guitar music, from his early work with the excellent Hilltops through his legendary performances and recordings as the leader of Blue Mountain. Now Blue Mountain is disbanded, and Hudson is the solo artist he has always been perfectly capable of being.
The newly released "Cool Breeze"—his second solo offering on Black Dog Records—is a collection of typically great songs and performances, with a distinctly different feel than any of Hudson's previous work. At first blush, "Cool Breeze" is a more bluesy record than anything in Hudson's discography. Hudson says: "This album just has more Mississippi in it than any of my other records; I'm not sure exactly what that means, but it's more about how the record feels."
With the exception of the traditional-sounding "Don't Hasten Away," which reflects Hudson's love for guitarist Burt Jansch, "Cool Breeze" departs significantly from Hudson's work with Blue Mountain: much more "blue," much less "mountain."
Hudson has been touring extensively this summer throughout the Midwest and Northeast, and shared a solo acoustic tour on the West Coast with Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers. "The audiences have been great—even better than I expected," Hudson says. "I had many people tell me that this is the best thing I've done since "Dog Days," which is my favorite record we did with Blue Mountain. You never know how good a batch of songs is until you get to gauge an audience's reaction to them. It has really been gratifying to get such a good response."
The critics have been equally ebullient about "Cool Breeze," including a rave in the deeply influential Harp magazine. Several critics have marked the infectious title cut as a highlight of the album. Hudson allows that "Cool Breeze" is just fun to play. "The song feels good under my fingers, and the crowd response has been really good out on the road," he says. "In fact, I can't wait to play it every night, and that's a good feeling." Hudson also noted that the semi-biographical "What the Old Man Told Me," based largely on his close relationship with his late grandfather, is a personal favorite of his.
Much of this summer's tour has seen Hudson play solo acoustic dates. For a tremendously accomplished guitarist and a seasoned veteran performer, Hudson admits that "when you're playing solo, it's never boring; all the pieces of the song depend on you to get them through. There's not a real chance to relax in that format. But then," Hudson adds with a laugh, "anybody who's ever seen me play knows that relaxing on stage isn't exactly part of the program." As the veteran of many Blue Mountain and Cary Hudson solo shows, I, for one, can certainly attest that this is true.
Despite his solo troubadour shows this summer, Hudson is bringing his full Cary Hudson Electric Trio to play George Street. Justin Showah on bass and Ted Gainey on drums make up the other two-thirds of the Cary Hudson Trio, and they are excellent. Many readers will know of Showah's work with the Taylor Grocery Band and his appearances on Thacker Mountain Radio, as well as his relationship with Jimbo Mathus. Gainey has worked with a variable who's who of Mississippi musicians, including the Kudzu Kings, The Taylor Grocery Band, R. L. Burnside and numerous sessions with the infamous Fat Possum Records.
Despite the full band format, the George Street show will have one big surprise for Hudson's fans: Due to a recent severe ankle sprain, Hudson will have to play sitting down. "R. L. Burnside rocks it pretty good sitting down—maybe I can call on him for inspiration" Hudson says with a laugh. In all likelihood, when the Cary Hudson Electric Trio launches into the songs on "Cool Breeze," Hudson will be the only one seated.
Check out Cary Hudson and Black Dog Records at www.blackdogrecords.com; "Cool Breeze" is available in record stores everywhere and at George Street Grocery on Aug. 27.