Mississippi John Hurt's vocal and guitar style are always easy on the ears. Unlike a number of Delta stylists with their high-pitched voices and slashing slide guitars, Hurt's approach to country blues is immediately accessible. Recorded (for the most part) at Oberlin College in 1965, Live captures Hurt a couple of years after his rediscovery and one year before his death. He kicks off with several spirituals, including "I Shall Not Be Moved" and "Nearer My God to Thee." As Billy Altman points out in the liner notes, religious material was often excluded from studio recordings because no one believed it marketable. The remainder of Live consists of folk-blues, from "Salty Dog Blues" to "Coffee Blues" to "Ain't Nobody's Business." Hurt's finger-style guitar reminds one of Elizabeth Cotton and has more in common with the Piedmont players in general than those of his Mississippi home. Perhaps this connection helps explain why Hurt, who is considered primarily a bluesman, covered so many traditional folk songs. Indeed, the inclusion of songs like "C.C. Rider" also connects him to that other great straddler of folk and blues, Leadbelly. The last three tracks -- "Hop Joint," "Trouble, I've Had It All My Days," and "Spike Driver Blues" -- originate from the Newport Folk Festival in 1965 and fit in well with the other material. Fans will thank their Maker that Tom Hoskins traveled to Mississippi in 1963 to find out if Hurt was still among the living. Otherwise, excellent recordings like Live would've never been made.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.