Blue Mountain Tales of a Traveler

Of the entire generation of No Depression bands, I don’t think anyone’s made a better record than Blue Mountain’s 1997 album, Homegrown. It was everything you could hope for in a country-rock album: earthy sound, unvarnished vocals, wistful harmonies, breezy melodies, elemental emotions and simple, but not simplistic songs. Songs that rang true and felt like you’d known them forever. Tales of a Traveler is not the equal of Homegrown, but to their credit, it seems as though Blue Mountain knew they’d have trouble and set about not making a sequel. In fact, Tales of a Traveler is in its own way a considerably more ambitious album with more aggressive and occasionally more baroque arrangements — they even venture into Dixie-fried rock territory, albeit in a mercifully less greasy form than the Molly Hatchets of yesteryear. If that approach eats into the ageless quality of their songs, it's more than mitigated by their continued foundation in the gritty, woodsy vocals of Cary Nelson and his keening harmonies with Laurie Stirratt. Less than brilliant, but more than an encouraging sign that the wheels haven't yet fallen off the alt-country wagon. (Roadrunner)