By: Dennis Cook
An ode to fine jelly may seem an odd starter for an album, but after nearly 45 years of professional songsmithing Michael Hurley is capable of unearthing what's worth ruminatin' about within almost any subject. For many years music has been just flowing out of him, quenching cups in life's desert sparkling with strange insight and folksy wisdom, but Ida Con Snock (released October 6 on Gnomonsong) is a mesmerizing, steady stream running through folk lands that continually reminds one how potent well-written tunes played straight with a few beautiful, quietly inspired touches can be.
Unlike Hurley's last effort, Ancestral Swamp (JamBase review), where the arrangements centered on his voice and a single instrument, Ida Con Snock is practically a hootenanny, by Hurley standards. His wonderfully patina-ed voice is gently enfolded in whispery steel guitar, unobtrusive, sleepy drums, violin sprays, and owl hoots, alongside Hurley's own guitar, viola and Wurlitzer. Despite its spareness, the album feels sumptuous, a beggarman's feast laid out next to an oil can wood fire while friends, new and old, kick up tiny dust devils as they pull music out of thin air. Captured at Levon Helms Studios in Woodstock and Brooklyn Studios in NYC, the album is an uncluttered, gentle hearted beauty. There's a lovely '50s pop tinge to pieces like "I Can't Help Myself" and the doo-wop rich "Going Steady," which adds further weight to idea that Michael Hurley just gets what constitutes a good song, genre be damned.
JamBase | Valley of Tears
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