Michael Hurley


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Not as potent as Long Journey, Blue Navigator, or Snockgrass, Weatherhole is more on a par with Watertower, and the two Racoon Records albums, Armchair Boogie and Hi Fi Snock Uptown. In other words, Michael Hurley is even more laid-back than usual; though, with Hurley, "laid-back" can be an asset. The main culprit here is mixing Hurley's vocals a layer or two back in the mix. In fact, the dobro, alternately provided by either Kevin Maul or David Mansfield, seems to be hogging the lead vocal mic. The Hurley dynamic requires his lazy, loopy-yet-effective vocals to be squarely up front. It is no accident that the most successful songs on Weatherhole -- "The Beggars Terms," "Vanessa," "Mr. Man in the Moon," and "Don't Call Me Sam" -- feature Hurley's vocals clearly atop the instrumental mix. These four tunes, along with "The Rue of Ruby Whores," "Extra Love," "Wildegeeses," and "Your Old Gearbox," comprise eight worthy additions to the Hurley canon. "Vanessa," to single out one, with its "holy modal," fiddle-and-banjo backing, is essential. The other four originals on Weatherhole are so-so Doc Snock fare, as is the take of the traditional "Rider's Lament." Particularly so-so is the overly cute toker anthem, "Nat'l Weed Growers Association." Still, eight out of 13 is not a bad ratio. What's that, math fans? Sixty percent? One is inclined to accept the percentage because no one else is even remotely capable of providing a Hurley fix other than Hurley himself. Hurley's vivid, primitive artwork for the cover and insert booklet of Weatherhole, featuring usual suspects Wood Bill, Kornbred, Jocko, and Boone, is among his best.

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