Michael Hurley is a singularly unusual singer, guitarist and artist. Following our recent re-issues of Hurley’s three albums for Rounder Records, 1975’s Have Moicy (LITA 061), 1976’s Long Journey (LITA 062) and 1980’s Snockgrass (LITA 063) we are now set to revisit some of Hurley’s earliest solo works: 1971’s Armchair Boogie and Hi Fi Snock Uptown.
Featuring 14 twisted songs produced by “Banana” and Joe Bauer, Hi Fi Snock Uptown saw Hurley amplifying some of Armchair Boogie’s willfully esoteric qualities and delivering an album that explores the full range of his sound, from blues to country and folk to playful sounds – like his crow impressions on ‘Old Black Crow’. As ‘Twilight Zone’ neatly puts it, “everything is weird”. It also features some of his most loved songs such as ‘Water Train’, ‘Eyes, Eyes’ and the gorgeous traveling track ‘Blue Driver’.
This is the highly sought-after album sounding better than it ever has, complete with Hurley’s own, unmistakable sleeve art. It’s housed in a deluxe, gatefold, tip-on jacket.
Born in 1941 in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, Hurley moved to New York in the early ‘60s, where he began making his name on the subversive Greenwich Village folk scene before contracting mono and spending years in and out of hospital. Back in health, he was discovered by blues and jazz historian Frederick Ramsey III and subsequently championed by boyhood friend Jesse Colin Young, he recorded his debut album, 1964’s First Songs for Folkways, on the same reel-to-reel machine that taped Lead Belly’s Last Sessions. Its songs were borrowed by Holy Modal Rounders and The Youngbloods, the latter signing Hurley to their Raccoon imprint and releasing his next two albums. The singer-songwriter came into his own recording those warm, eccentric records, colored as they are by fantastic characters, charming Americana and homemade blues.
Recently returning with new material on Devendra Banhart’s and Andy Cabic’s label Gnomonsong, it’s easy to see why Banhart would identify with Hurley – his lineage stretches to any modern performer of skewed blues, country, lo-fi and Americana. No wonder he’s won high praise from younger performers like Lucinda Williams, Vic Chesnutt, Calexico, and Cat Power.