Sings & Plays Mississippi John Hurt
'Mississippi' John Hurt made his own music, his own way. That's why his 1928 recordings are unique among pre-war Mississippi country blues artists, and why his later records still sound fresh and original. His sound was shaped almost entirely by his humble personality and a self-taught guitar style unaffected by modern influences. John Hurt was deeply connected to the rural land and the people he came from, his songs often sounding like they came up out of the wide-open fields and swamps where he lived and worked most of his life. He was authentic, down to his bones. I've wanted to make a record of Mississippi John Hurt songs since I began listening to him in earnest in the mid-1970s. Some of his original Vanguard LPs were still in print then, and like many young fingerpickers I was mesmerized by the gentle, rocking groove of his acoustic guitar playing and the whispery, ancient depths of his voice. My aim here was to play these tunes pretty much like he played them, which I concede is not particularly original, but this record is about his music and trying to get that sound. I recorded most of these songs solo, like Mr. Hurt did, but on several selections I included some of my favorite Birmingham musicians for a little extra meat in the stew. They are Roy Yarbrough on upright bass, Jason Bailey on mandolin, John McKay on harmonica, and Tom Dameron on tuba. If you like these songs but haven't heard the man himself, by all means get his original recordings, most of which have been re-issued on compact discs. Then visit the Mississippi John Hurt Museum in Avalon, Mississippi, where you can sit on the same front porch where he played his guitar and sang for many years. Most of the people of Avalon are long gone, but the rural landscape that shaped his incredible music is still very much like it was when he came of age in the early years of the last century. Getting to know John Hurt's music and his story will surely be time well spent. - Lost Jim.