This is at least the third authorized CD release of the 13 songs that Mississippi John Hurt recorded in 1928 for OKeh, which were previously available in the 1980s under license through Yazoo Records as 1928 Sessions, and in the '90s from Sony's Legacy imprint as Avalon Blues: The Complete 1928 OKeh Recordings, produced by Lawrence Cohn (who also produced this CD). Musically The Best of Mississippi John Hurt is identical to Avalon Blues and 1928 Sessions. The main difference between this and the earlier Sony release is the packaging, with the cover art here made to resemble what a Mississippi John Hurt commercial 78 rpm album or early Columbia LP might've looked like. There are also some concise and informative notes from Arthur Levy, which state that this CD is the first collection of this material to be mastered off of original metal parts. The Avalon Blues CD made use of Sonic Solutions' "NoNoise" processing, which is not indicated here, suggesting that while the results are similar in fidelity -- and excellent -- this CD may have a more natural, less heavily processed sound; you'll be hard put to tell the difference in a blind listening test between the two. The listening on either is priceless, however, and you may not mind buying this disc, duplication though it may be, if it will help encourage Sony/BMG to reissue yet more blues. As to the music, it's some of the most gently graceful and powerful blues playing and singing you're likely ever to hear, beautiful and poetic, yet filled with energy and resonating with Hurt's understated yet persuasive personal magnetism and dynamism, in his singing as well as his playing. Whichever edition one hears, it's all worth getting, and spreading around far and wide.
AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder