When we last left Blue Mountain, the band had taken giant steps forward on "Tales of a Traveler." Bandleaders Cary Hudson and Laurie Stirratt added soul and R&B inflections to their rootsy strummings, and Stirratt bounded forward on the songwriting front. The logical sequel to that record is yet to come.
That's no reason not to trip over this, a vivd reworking of older, traditional songs like "Rye Whiskey," "Young and Tender Ladies" and "Riley and Spencer." The dark Blue Mountain sound remains intact, and if listeners think they're in for a dry reading of dust-blown tunes, they are simply incorrect. "Banks of the Pontchartrain" gets an invigorating workout, as does "That Nasty Swing," which takes on a greasy, leering quality. Even "Rye Whiskey," which in less inventive hands might come across as a simple chant, grows into a celebratory revel. The only flaw is that it contains no Blue Mountain originals.