Veteran Folk Hero Michael Hurley Ranks Part of His Vast Recorded Catalogue

Ahead of his first Australian tour, one of American music’s true originals ranks some of his favourite records.

by Tim Scott
19 January 2016, 4:11am

Michael Hurley is a true outsider folk troubadour. Even during the 60s Greenwich Village folk boom, Hurley forged his own itinerant path creating music that was charming, homely, and wildly original. His music sounds old, slow and peculiar. It sounds amazing and unique.

When pressed for a description himself Hurley, who is also a cartoonist and painter, has called it “jazz-hyped blues and country and western music”.

His debut album, First Songs, was recorded for Folkways Records in 1965 on the same reel-to-reel machine that taped Lead Belly's Last Sessions. From there he has amassed an amazing body of work.

Ahead of his first Australian tour, which will include a special Sydney Festival performance with fellow US songwriter Meg Baird, Michael gave us some snippets into his vast back catalogue.

They may be brief but it’s not everyday that you get insights into a 73-year-old’s record collection.

Ida Con Snock (2009)

I like this as it’s a change from some of my home-recorded albums and the change is to a nice state of the art studio recorded sound. It was made at Levon Helm's barn studio in Woodstock NY. Leven was around in 2005 and we were all thrilled to see him and even recorded a song with him which was put out by, Ida, which is my band on the record Ida Con Snock. So if you like smoothness and cleanliness, and no shabby frumpage then you can check this one out. "Wildegeeses", “I Stole the Right to Live” and “Lock Lomond/Molly Malone” are some of my favourites on there.

Armchair Boogie (1971)

The people's choice from 1969. It is famous for “The Werewolf”, “Sweedeedee” and “The Light Green Fellow”.

Hi Fi Snock Uptown (1972)

The follow up on the heels of Armchair Boogie, check out “Old Black Crow”, “The Twilight Zone” and “Eyes Eyes”.

Parsnip Snips (1995)
For the real home recorded rawness it was made mostly on one of the old Wollensaks; the Jeep of portable tape recorders. See; “You're a Dog, Don't Talk to Me”, “Old Black Crow” (the original recorded version; fresh) and “New Tea”

Land of Lo Fi & Redbirds (1988)
This is more recent than Ida, more home phonics “Doin' the O'Possum!”, “How Many Biscuits Can You Eat?” and “Ohio Blues”.

Wolfways (1994)
Collectors will want; “I Paint a Design”, “Ditty Boy Twang” and “The Revenant”

Collect them all and happy days to New Zealand and Australia.

Michael Hurley Australian tour:
Jan 21 – Brisbane at Junk Bar
Jan 23 – Melbourne at Northcote Social Club
Jan 24 – Sydney Festival at St Stephen’s Church
Jan 26 – Melbourne Summer Tones at Shadow Electric