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The Hilltops

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Based in Oxford, MS, the Hilltops served as a precursor to the band Blue Mountain and the later music career of John Stirratt (Wilco, Uncle Tupelo, the Autumn Defense). One of the best and most popular bands in the North Mississippi/Memphis region during their late-'80s existence, they successfully mixed country and roots rock with punk -- imagine the Replacements if they had come from Dixie. The disparate yet harmonious elements in the music were best shown by Stirratt's tendency towards the punkier side of things, while co-leader Cary Hudson's songs were more earthy and had a more overt country influence (though were no less rocking). They released Holler on cassette in 1989 and Big Black River on CD two years later (which would eventually be re-released by Hudson's cousin's label Black Dog Records). After the band's end, Hudson and guitarist Laurie Stirratt (sister of John), by now married, moved to Los Angeles where they formed Blue Mountain before moving back to Mississippi. John Stirratt recorded an album's worth of tracks which would later be released as the Gimmecaps and joined Uncle Tupelo and then Wilco. ~ Rob Caldwell