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Album Review

The question of whether Michael Hurley (aka Dock Snock) is a neglected national treasure or a mildly amusing pseudo-folky aberration is one that must be resolved in the ear of the individual listener. The fact that the question meets different answers in just about every quarter probably explains both Hurley's legendary status among American roots musicians (he has played with everyone from the Youngbloods to Son Volt) and the fact that this album was released on a small German label more usually devoted to historical curiosities. On Sweetkorn, the aging Hurley evokes the sound of middle-period Tom Waits, though he comes by his junkyard instrumentation and ugly voice more honestly than Waits does. Same with the aggressively lo-fi production quality, which is a longstanding Waits affectation and, one senses, simply a reflection of the way things are for Hurley. Hurley's "Ohio Blues" is spare and beautiful, as is his eerily lovely rendition of the pop classic "Mona Lisa"; he brings nothing particularly new or noteworthy to "Barbara Allen," but "The End of the Road" sounds like a sly undermining of "Mommas Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to Be Cowboys," while "Negatory Romance" opens with this deathless couplet: "He's wantin' her more than he's wantin' his wife/Now buddy, that's a good way to screw up your life." Bard, sage, screwup, whatever — Michael Hurley's generally worth hearing, and that's certainly the case on this weird but charming album.


Born: 20 December 1941 in Buck's County, PA

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

A singer/songwriter in the subversive Greenwich Village folk scene of the late '60s and '70s, with several songs lent to the Holy Modal Rounders, Michael Hurley maintained an infrequent solo career into the '90s but was more famed for his writing credits. Born on December 20, 1941 in Pennsylvania, he migrated to Greenwich Village by the early '60s and was ready to sign a major record deal when he contracted mononucleosis; after spending several years in the hospital, Hurley returned to music and...
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