Peter Case and Friends
Avalon Blues - Tribute To
Mississippi John Hurt
Review by Steven Stone
Click here to e-mail reviewer
CD Stock Number: Vanguard Records 79582-2
When the names of influential guitar players come up, Mississippi John Hurt
is rarely in the top ten. That’s just plain wrong. This new CD, the brainchild of Peter Case, makes a strong point for his inclusion in the
pantheon of pickers who've had an impact on a whole generation of musicians.
John Hurt was briefly discovered by Okeh records in the late '20's, but after a few sessions returned to his home in Avalon, Mississippi. His real
musical career did not begin till 1963 when blues musicians Tom Hoskins and Mike Stewart "rediscovered" him. Between 1963 and 1966, when he died, Hurt
recorded three albums for Vanguard records while playing most of the important clubs and folk festivals in the Northeast. It is paradoxical that
with such a relatively short professional career he could cast such a long shadow. But Hurt's unique guitar and vocal style, coupled with his powerful
songs, produced a lasting impression that is still with us today.
Peter Case roped together an imposing bunch of artists to celebrate and acknowledge their debt to Hurt's music. Steve Earle, John Hiatt, Victoria
Williams, Beck, Taj Mahal, Ben Harper, Bruce Cockburn, Chris Smither, Mark Selby, Geoff
Muldaur, Bill Morrissey, Gillian Welch, Alvin Youngblood Hart,
and Dave Alvin all turn in strong performances. While I couldn't begin to tell which cut is the best, it's easy to pick the most idiosyncratic.
Victoria Williams version of "Since I've Laid My Burden Down" has a primitive
africanized "we just threw up a microphone and recorded what we got" quality
that is appealing for its pseudo amateur verve. Taj Mahal tenders an aristocratic rendering of "My Creole Belle". A rustic rendition of
"Stagolee" by Beck complete with augmented tape hiss is a far cry from the late 60's pop
Tennessee Ernie Ford version. Ben Harper, Chris Smither, Dave Alvin, and Bruce Cockburn all deliver some fancy
fingerpickin' worthy of Hurt's Legacy.
Fine performances of great songs make this CD essential listening. Buy two; one for your home system and one for your car. It's that good.
Sound Quality: 90