Album Review

Cary Hudson - Bittersweet Blues

Cary Hudson - Bittersweet Blues

If Cary Hudson's electrified 2004 release Cool Breeze recalled one aspect of Mississippi -- the amped-up blues-rock of the North Mississippi All-Stars, minus the sprawling jams -- the pared-down acoustic ruminations of Bittersweet Blues bring to mind the Mississippi of William Faulkner and Eudora Welty. There's a writerly, descriptive feel to the former Blue Mountain leader's latest album, with twelve finely detailed slices of life in the south. The opening "Snow In Mississippi" sets the tone right away, a back-pages musing on wasted youth going by too fast, "like a rock 'n' roll song, like snow in Mississippi." If you grew up anyplace where snow seldom falls, this perfectly captures the fondly remembered exuberance of a rare snow day off from school. Hudson is in fine voice throughout, and finer guitar. "Berlin Blues" and the cover of Elizabeth Cotten's "Freight Train" both pick the Piedmont blues. "Sleeping Under The Stars" echoes the acoustic chime of Big Star's "Thirteen". The gliding guitar ripple of "Passing By" makes it perhaps the gentlest road song you'll ever hear. But it's Hudson's words that stick, whether he's telling the Elvis legend in the style of an epic seafaring song ("Epitaph") or detailing the simple pleasures of life off the beaten path ("Song In C"). He brings it all back home on the last song, "Love Can Find A Way", which confronts the horrors of Hurricane Katrina and suicide bombers in Iraq and posits love as the answer. On paper, that seems hopelessly naive. In song, he makes you believe it.