Photo | Chad Edwards/MCE Photography
Band: IMC presents Tim Easton and Cary Hudson
Date: Friday, Jan. 18, 7:30 p.m.
Venue: Satori Coffee House, 5460 Old Shell Road (Mobile), satori-coffee.com
Tickets: $5 at the door; USA students admitted free
The University of South Alabama Independent Music Collective’s latest installment will feature the works of two great songwriters.
Cary Hudson will be half of this twofold lineup. Hudson gained widespread notoriety with legendary Mississippi bands such as the Hilltops and Blue Mountain. Afterward, he began focusing on a solo career. Along the way, he performed with such iconic names as R.L. Burnside and Bobby Rush.
These days, he’s keeping his solo work focused on folk-inspired alt. country and preparing to enter the studio for the follow-up to 2014’s “Town and Country.” When Lagniappe reached Hudson, he was walking the streets of New Orleans before a gig at the House of Blues.
Stephen Centanni: Well, we’re looking forward to having you back in Mobile.
Cary Hudson: Yeah, me too! I was hangin’ with Tim [Easton] a few weeks back at a festival in Little Rock. I always love hanging out with him and making music with him.
Centanni: Last time I saw you was at the Piney Woods Picnic. One thing I was really taken by was the passion and dedication for the local scene I saw not only with the artists but also the crowd. What is it about the South Mississippi scene that makes it so special for the artists and fans?
Hudson: As far as the South Mississippi and Hattiesburg area goes, Hattiesburg has always had a really cool music scene. We’re the Hub City, so we’ve always had a lot of train traffic and different things coming through. Some people say that we’re the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll, based on a Robert Palmer quote. That’s Robert Palmer the music writer, not the singer.
I think it’s as good as any other, but it’s always had a great scene. It seems like over the last few years Hattiesburg and Ocean Springs have had some of the strongest music scenes in Mississippi.
Centanni: One person who joined you on stage was violinist Katrina Miller. She’s been a pretty regular collaborator with you as of late. How did she make it into the mix?
Hudson: She approached me first and said, “Hey, I want to play music for you.” I really wasn’t looking. I was totally into my solo thing at the time, but I love fiddle. I love it so much that I tried to play it for seven years. Then I was like, “Wait a minute. I can’t do this and play guitar at the same time.” I don’t know why it took me so long to figure that out.
My music fits real well with strings as opposed to brass, you know. The longer we’ve done it together, the more we’ve gotten tight. I just love her approach to music. It’s very lyrical and melodic and simple. It really fits with mine, and she’s got a great singing voice.
Centanni: Besides Blue Mountain, you’ve played with a pretty diverse lineup of bands. What has kept you focused on your solo work for so many years?
Hudson: As far as being a solo performer, it just fits with where I am in life. My first band was really loud. So it’s nice to go and explore another world that I’ve always been interested in, which is fingerpicking like people like John Hurt. As far as focusing on a solo career as opposed to being in a company, I just love writing songs and getting to do my own material.
Centanni: One thing I always like to ask singer-songwriters is what makes a good song. What do you think makes a good song?
Hudson: Well, a good title is a great place to start. If you have a good title, then that helps. I was listening to Beck the other night, and I just love music that has abstract lyrics. But for me, when I’m looking at a song, I like one that tells a story or just suggests a story.
The way Bob Dylan tells a story is so great sometimes. He just gives you just the suggestions of a story, but you can feel that there’s a storyline behind it. So, that’s one thing I like about a song.
Centanni: Where do you find your best stories?
Hudson: (Chuckling) I live in Mississippi and Louisiana so I don’t have to look far for colorful characters and drama, you know. In all seriousness, I do write where I’m from. I’m like a regional writer, I think. So, most of my songs are set in Mississippi or Louisiana.
Centanni: When you look back at your solo albums, there was a definite shift in sound between “Cool Breeze” and “Bittersweet Blues.” “Bittersweet Blues” found you delving into a folk/country side of Americana. What brought about that change?
Hudson: One thing was that I had stopped touring with a band. After Blue Mountain, I still had a band and kept a band together. I just got interested in fingerpicking and solo performing. So, that was one thing. I started focusing on performance as a solo artist. Also, I don’t like doing the same thing year after year. It felt like a direction that I wanted to go and also maybe a way to age gracefully.
Centanni: With your latest album, “Town and Country,” it seems like you’ve found a middle ground between your rock persona and your Americana persona. How did this album end up sounding like it did?
Hudson: With the “Town and Country” record, I went into the studio at Studio in the Country with my friend Thomas Jackson. I loved what he did on the album so much in the studio that I decided to follow that template and worked at that studio and used the same drummer. I just thought what he added sounded great. In retrospect, it might’ve not been the best idea. When I went out to support the album, it didn’t really sound like that. The next thing I’m working on is more stripped down. It’ll be more like “Bittersweet Blues” but with Katrina added.
Centanni: Tell me about that upcoming album.
Hudson: I’m just about finished with the writing, and I’ll start tracking it sometime in the next two or three months. Hopefully, I’ll get it out this year or this time next year, at least. I’m not rushing it. I’m not really in a hurry to go out and tour the country, but sometime in the next year I imagine a new record will come out.
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