October 23, 2015

Touring: Michael Hurley

Michael Hurley A2_web

Artwork by Michael Hurley, layout by Carl Breitkreuz


  • MELBOURNE: SAT JAN 23 – Northcote Social Club with special guest Joel Silbersher plus DJ Downpat (A G Picks, O’Tomorrow). Presented by Triple R. SOLD OUT
  • SYDNEY FESTIVAL: SUN JAN 24 – St Stephen’s Church with Meg Baird, doors open 6pm. Tickets on sale now from Sydney Festival.
  • MELBOURNE: TUE JAN 26 – Summer Tones @ The Shadow Electric, Abbotsford Convent with Kurt Vile, Meg Baird + more.  Tickets on sale now from The Shadow Electric.

Mistletone could not be more overjoyed to present the first ever Australian tour by one of the last of America’s true outsider folk troubadours, Michael Hurley. We at Mistletone (Ash & Sophie) have been long-time loving fans of Michael Hurley; he is an artist whose music means a great deal to us, and our hearts are overflowing with gratitude that he is finally coming to our shores!

Michael Hurley’s music sounds old, like it has always existed, and simultaneously singular, like something you’ve never heard anyone else play quite like that before. This timeless quality ensures that Hurley’s audience constantly renews itself. From the the beatniks in the NYC Village where he started in the early 60s, to the hippies in Vermont, to the Americana fans, indie rockers and freak folkers from the last two decades, and those who have covered and championed his songs — from Cat Power to Devendra Banhart to Calexico — Michael’s music never fails to find fresh new ears. Pressed for a description, Hurley has called it “jazz-hyped blues and country and western music”.

Michael Hurley grew up in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. As a teenager in the 1950s he fell in love hearing the music of Fats Domino, The Everly Brothers and Bo Diddley blast from the radio, and was enthralled by the records of Blind Willie McTell, Hank Williams and Uncle Dave Macon that he sought for his own. This love for music, true and unvarnished, supplied him with a finely tuned musical compass he has not wavered from for 50 years and counting.

Hurley’s 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. He was discovered by blues and jazz historian Frederick Ramsey III, and subsequently championed by boyhood friend Jesse Colin Young, who released his 2nd & 3rd albums on The Youngbloods’ Warner Bros. imprint, Raccoon. In the late 1970s, Hurley made three albums for Rounder, all of which have since been reissued on CD. His 1976 LP Have Moicy!, a collaboration with the Holy Modal Rounders and Jeffrey Frederick & The Clamtones, was named “the greatest folk album of the rock era” by The Village Voice’s Robert Christgau.

In more recent years stalwart independent labels like Gnomonsong, Mississippi and Tompkins Square have been carrying the torch. A new album on the Mississippi label is due this spring and Michael Hurley has released dozens of albums — all glorious listens. Besides being a truly unique musician, Hurley is also a cartoonist and watercolor artist of note — the instantly recognisable results of which grace his album covers.

Michael Hurley likes to call himself Elwood Snock, Doc Snock, Snockman, The Snock, or Snock. He has self-published magazines such as The Underground Monthly, The Outcry, and The Morning Tea, and created several comic books featuring Jocko and Boone, Greenbriar Kornbread, and Mama Molasses, among other characters.  Two oft-featured cartoon werewolves, Jocko and Boone, have been something of a theme across Hurley’s musical career, even appearing in their own comics. Both are based on dogs that Hurley owned.

Michael Hurley now resides on the northwest coast of the USA, and appearances outside that region have been scarce the last decade; so we are doubly grateful that he is making the Long Journey to Australia’s shores at long last.

Michael Hurley(by Tim Bugbee)
Michael Hurley. Photo: Tim Bugbee


“Undoubtedly one of American’s greatest folk singers, Hurley has little in common with the majority of today’s folk performers. While they seem bent on demonstrating that all people are alike, such a suffocating presumption has no place in this man’s work. Michael Hurley is nothing like his potential audience. What better reason to hear what he has to say?” 
– Chuck Cuminale

“…I don’t know what else to say about what he writes and sings, other than that it is gosh-darned great. What kind of music is it? Hell, what kind of weeds does God grow? Let’s just shut up and listen and go to where Michael Hurley is. After all, we can always turn around and come back. He can’t.”
– Nick Tosches

“Michael Hurley is the last unreconstructed folkie-shaman in America. His songs are primordial tales of the hunt for good cheer and satisfying sex, etched like cave paintings on city walls and farmland silos. Like many characters in his songs, his voice seems to have been run over by the dump truck of life, but it marries human mystery to forthright music like no other.”
– Milo Miles

“Whether weaving a yarn about a mysterious hog or comparing the human heart to a mechanic’s toolbox, Mr. Hurley create(s) elaborate vistas in a musical version of outsider art” 
– Ann Powers / New York Times

“Hurley remains one of the elusive masters of American folk”
– Chris Morris / Billboard

“Trusting in his own peculiarities, Hurley makes the world spin just a little bit slower, and a little bit bumpier. Somehow it feels much more natural that way.” 
– Jim Macnie

“Somehow, thinking of Hurley, I find myself thinking also of Samuel Beckett. Now I don’t see Hurley having much truck with the modernist strain of 20th Century art, and, as a high school dropout, he would probably be nauseated by the gasbag spewings of the ivory tower intellectual. A true and deliberate neo-primitive, his inspiration springs from nature, the rural blues and the lure of remote hills and woodlands, landscapes that loom in the backgrounds of his comics like vast parabolic gumdrops.” 
– Vernon Tonges

Watch Michael Hurley perform “The Slurf Song” on Live Wire Radio Oregon, filmed at the Alberta Rose Theatre in Northeast Portland:

Post a Comment