Saturday, December 21, 2013

Here's ONE mark of a truly brilliant artist - that you can listen to ANY album they ever made and they're all equally great. To date, there's only one artist I can think of that qualifies -- MICHAEL HURLEY the great, er, what would ya call him? ALSO been acoustic-based. His songwriting and performance always based in a very natural melange Blues, early country and folk vocabulary. Lyrics -- always conversational, apparently narrative and yet slyly allusive, and evincing a gently skewed approach to life and the depiction thereof.

I've only got a handful of his recordings Long Journey Hi Fi Snock Uptown Snockgrass Wolfways Ancestral Swamp Ida Con Snock

these covering a period from the early 70's to the current century -- and listened side by side, there's no discerning which was recorded when - or written when and they're honestly, all equally great in a quiet, understated but thoroughly authoritative way. If only you could say that about the Ramones' output -- leaving out the quiet and understated shiz.

And I take additional pride in Hurley being the product of Bucks County PA where I've resided for the past few decades - and in fact am friends with a niece of his, Ella. Moreover, a few years ago I had the honor of doing publicity for him and having some ongoing dealings with him, finding him to be as singular, strong-willed AND charming as I'd hoped. In his emails he addressed me as "Howland" after the Owl in the "Pogo" comic strip.

After much prevarication I finally popped for a copy of "First Songs" - his first recordings made over 4 decades ago -- and expect to find it as delightful as the rest.

PS I received this a couple weeks ago and it was -- an "interesting" surprise. On one hand, Hurley's songwriting is pretty much fully formed and in fact the album ends with "The Werewolf Song" - one of his most enduring, beloved and puissant compositions; his singing is fairly indistinguishable from what you'll hear on work recorded in the past few years. BUT, his guitar playing is relatively rudimentary. He's mainly strumming to buoy his vocal melody. Only a few years later when he recorded his first proper studio album for the Youngblood's Banana Records label he'd blossomed as a guitarist as well, developing a nimble yet relaxed style of picking and strumming that's served him nicely ever since. I will note that the mix here is kinda unbalanced - vocals are WAY out front. I assume that's coz this was done with one mic that was positioned near his cake hole rather than on the guitar per se. But that's a minor quibble. One thing that did tickle me was hearing the original version of "Blue Mountain" which I'd previously only known from Espers luscious version on the "Weed Tree" EP.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

People participate in popular culture as is their wont -- depending on their needs, aspirations, the dreams they're looking to empower. If it makes yr life better it's good. The first record I consciously bought was "Absolutely Free" by the Mothers of Invention, purchased on my one visit to the only "underground" record store in Jersey City in those times; the cover intrigued me. it really stuck out. And i was not disappointed by the content. My favorite art is that which suggests alternatives to the norm, that suggests novel an individualistic modes of thought. Participating in the most massively popular modes of art/ just kinda lost on me, largely because it's highly predictable and most of it's fairly homogenous i.e. a lot of pop songs are relatively interchangeable. And clearly, for a lot of people, that's exactly what pleases them, and that's great. But contemplating things like televised awards shows -- a celebration of that which has succeeded through its mundanity and predictability (by and large)...just a different path.