Given that it is Mississippi John Hurt’s birthday, I figured we ought to listen to of him this morning. I love his finger-picking style. His voice is kind of weak, but it’s more authentic than a thousand American Idol screechers. He recorded a few songs in the late 1920s, but nothing much came of them. He went back to sharecropping for the next three and a half decades. But in the early 1960s, an ethnomusicologist was able to track him down. As a result, Hurt spend the remaining three years of his life as a minor celebrity.
The only live performances of his that I’ve fond online are from when he was on a short-lived television program, Pete Seeger’s Rainbow Quest. And here is “Spike Driver Blues” — his own version of the John Henry legend. But I don’t much care about the lyrics. The music is just brilliant. As usual with Hurt, it’s kind of hard to classify it. There’s blue but also country and even some bluegrass. Beautiful stuff.
Actually, it is possible that Hurt was born on 3 July.