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Blue Mountain

Omnibus – 2008 (Broadmoor)

Reviewed by Brian Baker

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CDs by Blue Mountain

Bands break up for a variety of personal and professional reasons but the worst possible scenario for any group is the dissolution of a relationship within its ranks. In a 10-year run (that included their stint as the Hilltops), Blue Mountain released four excellent studio albums and a live record, all of which were critically well received and well represented the band's rising arc as able translators of bluegrass, gospel, country and rock.

But the group could not hope to survive the divorce of guitarist/vocalist Cary Hudson and bassist/vocalist Laurie Stirratt, and so Blue Mountain ground to a halt in 2001. Hudson did some solo work, Stirratt recorded with her twin brother/Wilco bassist John and with Danny Black in Healthy White Baby, and drummer Frank Coutch pounded out garage punk rhythms with Tyler Keith and the Preacher's Kids. But an enticing offer last year from the St. Louis organizers of Twangfest persuaded Hudson, Stirratt and Coutch (the band's best known trio version) to reconvene Blue Mountain just to see how it felt. Their success at Twangfest and on subsequent dates convinced them to make the reunion semi-permanent.

To that end, the newly reassembled Blue Mountain comes up with a pair of new albums, one that serves as a reintroduction seven years after their demise and one that shows the strength and power of the new Blue Mountain. "Omnibus" finds Blue Mountain revisiting 14 songs from their estimable catalog, including their avowed classic "Blue Canoe," in rerecorded forms that eschew the distortion of the originals for the cleaner, stronger presence of the band in its current state.