Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Mississippi John Hurt - Avalon Blues: The Complete 1928 Okeh Recordings (Columbia, 1994)

The quiet and gentle manner of Mississippi John Hurt's music and singing often belies the tales he spun. Hurt in considered unique in the blues, his deft fingerpicking shows a strong ragtime influence, and his singing is soft and well articulated, like listening to a old friend recount his favorite stories over coffee. Discovered by a traveling talent scout in his hometown of Avalon, Mississippi; Hurt recorded a few tracks in Memphis, before traveling to New York City to record the remainder of the songs found here. He was fortunate to have recorded for the Okeh label rather than paramount, as the music was treated with a little more care than the race records of the time usually were, and then given that and a thoughtful remastering by Columbia for the compact disc release, allowing his intricate guitar work and vocals shine through clearly. Though they were not particularly popular at the time, Hurt's early recordings has a profound impact on musicians, particularly those of the "blues revival" of the early 1960's setting the stage for the second act of his career. Given his genteel nature, it is very interesting to hear Hurt's "Frankie" a version of the immortal "Frankie and Johnny" a timeless song of cheating and reprisal, and another American legend "Stack 'O Lee" and the story of a gambler and murderer and a Stetson Hat. Hurt is a born storyteller and these songs are given a depth and breadth that few bluesmen achieved. Hurt's own compositions "Avalon Blues" and "Candy Man Blues" show his unique abilities. Growing up and learning music the comparative isolation of a Mississippi crossroads town, Hurt developed a unique style that sounded like no other. Over thirty years later, fortune smiled and folk blues fans who scoured old records like they were sacred texts, located Hurt still living and working on a farm in Avalon. Although he was initially skeptical of their intentions, Hurt joined these musicians and had a very fine run playing folk clubs and coffee houses around the country and recording once again.

Se also:

Hurt's biography at allmusic.
Hurt resources at Foxy Tunes Planet.
The Mississippi John Hurt museum.

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