Michael Hurley, Renaissance Man

Posted by Miss Ess, April 20, 2007 11:20am | Post a Comment

Michael Hurley
played at the Cafe du Nord Wednesday night, so I busted on over there after my weekly Bravo reality tv date, and I made it just in time for his full set. 

Hurley is one of the last standing of the 60s folkies, and he's still playing out often. I think in about the last 3 years I have seen him play maybe 5ish times? Oh, and though he is in his 60s he's still expertly writing ghostly, beautiful songs. Some of my favorites of his entire career have been on records from the last 15 years. He's been recording since 1965!  Despite the fact that most people associate folk music with serious, political topics, Hurley has always had his sense of humor intact and out front in his songs.

He's come back into fashion in these last 10ish years mainly because lately other artists have been giving him the shout-outs he's always deserved and have been covering his songs. Two of the more notable artists to champion Hurley lately have been Chan Marshall of Cat Power and Devendra Banhart. (Weirdly, Chan Marshall's Covers Album is almost like a song for song version of Hurley's Armchair Boogie.)  A few years back I saw Devendra with Vetiver, Chris from Espers, Carrituck County members and Joanna Newsom covering one of my absolute favorite Hurley songs, "Be Kind to Me" at the Swedish American Hall, and they tore it up, made it the raucous and ramshackle-y number it's meant to be.

Anyway, Hurley's a quiet, modest guy, but he is quite the renaissance man-- in addition to all his writing and touring, he creates the artwork for pretty much all his cds. 

And he even makes his own hats.

If you've never listened to Michael Hurley before I would recommend two older records to start, either Blueberry Wine or the afore-mentioned Armchair Boogie. Amoeba is actually one of the few places you can buy his cds! 

He's a different breed, the kind of talented and detail-oriented songwriter that becomes more and more rare as the years pass. If you are a folk fan, he's well worth a listen and a trek to one of his live shows.

Here he is playing in Portland this year. The camera work is bad, forgive the poster, but the song is of course fantastic:

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Michael Hurley (9), Cat Power (17), Devendra Banhart (13)