Michael Hurley


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First Songs (1964), 5/10
Armchair Boogie (1971), 6/10
Hi Fi Snock Uptown (1972), 6/10
Have Moicy ! (1976), 7.5/10
Long Journey (1976), 7/10
Snockgrass (1980), 6.5/10
Blue Navigator (1984), 6.5/10
Watertower (1988), 6/10
Parsnips Snips (1996), 5/10
Weatherhole (1999), 6/10
Sweetkorn (2003), 5/10
The Ancestral Swamp (2007), 5.5/10
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Summary:
Michael Hurley was a bizarre folk-singer in the tradition of Holy Modal Rounders' acid-folk, who masterminded two demented masterpieces such as Have Moicy (1976) and Long Journey (1976), both disfigured by his quavering growl and haphazard guitar picking,
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Michael Hurley e` uno dei grandi eccentrici del folk americano. Compagno di strada, nella natia Pennsylvania, di Jesse Colin Young, e gia` titolare di alcune registrazioni pubblicate sullo spartano First Songs (Folkways, 1964), ristampato come Blueberry Wine (Locust, 2002), contenente il suo tema Werewolf Song, al principio degli anni '70 Hurley ebbe l'occasione di incidere il meglio arrangiato Armchair Boogie (june 1970 - Raccoon, 1971), con Sweedeedee e Light Green Fellow, e il piu` vario Hi Fi Snock Uptown (march 1972 - Raccoon, 1972), con Water Train, Twilight Zone e Mr Whiskerwits, prove che gli guadagnarono un seguito fedele.

Hurley era specializzato in vivaci bozzetti campagnoli che hanno per protagonisti personaggi "spostati". Ogni sua opera e` il sarcastico affresco di un paese immaginario, partorito da overdose e da fiabe surreali, ma saldamente ancorato ai costumi della Frontiera (gambler, killer, outlaw, hobo, avventuriere), allegoria parodistica della societa` reale.

Il quarto album, Have Moicy! (july 1975 - Rounder, 1976), allinea alcuni dei folletti piu` maligni del country underground, gli Unholy Modal Rounders: prima facciata tutta della truppa di Jeffrey Frederick, con sbilenche scenette comiche come il ragtime Midnight In Paris e il tip-tap bluegrass di Griselda, e un'accorata What Made My Hamburger Disappear, seconda facciata con Hurley che gigioneggia nel nonsense in falsetto di Fooey Fooey e con il famigerato violinista Pete Stampfel degli Holy Modal Rounders che presta la sua voce amfetaminica per Country Bump e trasforma il complesso in una banda di goliardi alcolizzati per il ragtime Hoodoo Bash.

Long Journey (Rounder, 1976), ancora con Stampfel a seviziare le armonie, allunga il catalogo di tipi anomali che accettano con rassegnazione e a volte persino soddisfazione il loro stato di degradazione: Hurley si fa largo fra gospel sgangherati (Long Journey, The Vt.Ore Floor), country ubriachi (Portland Water), honky-tonk sgolati (So You Say, You Got To Find Me), e trionfa nella mesta ballata esotica 8-ball Cafe e nel reel demenziale di Hog Of The Forsaken.

Snockgrass (december 1979 - Rounder, 1980), con Dave Reisch al basso e Jill Gross al coro, consegna anche l'autobiografia personale ("Snock" e` il suo soprannome), con Midnite Rounder, ancora un honky-tonk con accenti caraibici, e Automatic Slim And The Fat Boys, una delle sue ballate piu` commosse, nella solita accozzaglia di gospel rocamboleschi (I'm Getting Ready To Go), ragtime swinganti (I Heard The Voice Of A Porkchop, You Gonna Look Like A Monkey) e valzer solenni (Jole Blon).

Blue Navigator (december 1983 - Rooster, 1984) e` mistico e trascendente, ma al solito tutto fuori tempo, e la galleria si infoltisce di autostoppisti alieni, prostitute, licantropi, spettri, etc. Il culmine e` Ghost Woman Blues.

Dopo lo spartano Watertower (Fundamental, 1988), nonostante la geniale Lush Green Trees, cade pero` il silenzio sulla sua attivita`.

Il suo folk anarchico, sardonico e naive trova rifugio sulle montagne del Vermont, da dove (nell'indifferenza generale di critica e pubblico) Hurley continua a lanciare di quando in quando invettive contro la razionalita'.

The mood is subdued on Watertower (Fundamental, 1988). The elegiac The Revenant, the tender, desolate You'll Never Go to Heaven, the Caribbean lullaby I Paint a Design, the lazy blues Lush Green Trees and the waltzing singalong Moon Song present a different man, a different kind of intelligence, preoccupied with a different order of problems, an earthly being who lives among earthly beings. The conventional catchy country-rock Keep Rockin', the soulful Broadcasting the Blues, and the lively Indian Chiefs and Hula Girls, vaguely reminiscent of Steve Goodman's City Of New Orleans, hint at an even calmer state of mind.

Hurley was largely forgotten after this album.

Wolfways (Veracity, 1994 - Koch, 1995) reprised some of his classics and added a few new compositions, including Hog of the Forsaken and Ditty Boy Twang.

A number of covers were released as the cassette series Land of Lo Fi & Redbirds (Bellemeade, 1988), and Woodbill Brothers (Bellemeade, 1992), with She Got a Mathematic, Excrusiasion '86 (Bellemeade, 1988) and Growlin' Bobo (Bellemeade, 1991) document live performances. The cassettes will be compiled on Bellemeade Sessions - A Return to the Land of Lo-Fi (Blue Navigator, 1997).

Parsnips Snips (Veracity, 1996) is a collection of home recordings from 1965-72. Weatherhole (Field, 1999) was the first collection of new, original material in a decade.

The calmer, pensive tone of Hurley's mature years became even more philosophical on Sweetkorn (july 2001 - Trikont, 2003) and on The Ancestral Swamp (Gnomonsong, 2007), recorded between 2001 and 2006, with Lonesome Graveyard, New River Blues, Dying Crapshooter's Blues, First Precinct Blues, El Dorado (a duet with Jane O'Neill), several covers and a couple of old songs revisited.

Then came: Ida Con Snock (Gnomonsong, 2009), recorded between 2005 and 2007; Blue Hills (Mississippi, 2010), recorded between 2007 and 2010; the archival Fatboy Spring (Mississippi, 2011), recorded in 1972-1973 with the Fatboys; the archival Back Home With Drifting Woods (Mississippi, 2012), that contains material originally recorded in 1964 for a canceled second album, the single Wildegeeses/ South in Virginia (Mississippi, 2013), recorded in 1998, Land of LoFi (Mississippi, 2013), and Bad Mr Mike (Mississippi, 2016). Living Ljubljana (Feeding Tube, 2018) is a live performance of 1995.

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