Michael Hurley – Ancestral Swamp

Michael Hurley – Ancestral Swamp / 2007 Gnomonsong / 11 Tracks / http://www.snockonews.net / http://www.gnomonsong.com /

Michael Hurley is one of the most storied folk musicians that is still around today. Songs of eir have been covered by bands such as Cat Power (“Sweedeedee” and Troubled Water”) and the Violent Femmes (“Werewolf”).  In the years since ey released eir first album “First Song”, ey has been prolific – “Ancestral Swamp” is the twentieth album that ey has released, and marks the first on Gnomonsong Records. Gnomonsong, for those that yet do not know, is the record label of Devendra Banhart and Andy Cabic, and provides a voice to the new folk movement in the United States.

While Hurley is a focal point of “Ancestral Swamp”, backing is provided by David Reisch (Holy Modal Rounders), Tara Jane O’Neil  (Rodan, Retsin, The Sonora Pine), and Lewi Longmire.  “Knockando” is the first track on “Ancestral Swamp”, and it shows that even after (over) 40 years creating music, that Hurley has not lost the smallest of steps. “Knockando” focuses heavily on the instrumental side of things and as such, operates first as a structural track (building up expectations for what individuals should expect for the rest of the album) and secondly, as something that fans of bother instrumentation and vocals can appreciate. “Dying Crapshooter’s Blues” has a more country and surf type of style to it, but the stretched-out arrangements provides a brooding atmosphere that colors Hurley’s vocals throughout the entirety of the track. Note here that Hurley provides vocals that are human – individuals can hear the pitch raise and lower, break and crackle, instead of using production tools to clean everything up.

The decision to do this gives “Ancestral Swamp” that much more in the way of soul, and means that tracks like “New River Blues”, “Gambling Charlie”, and “When I Get Back Home” will be bouncing around listeners’ heads for months to come. Of all of these tracks, “1st Precinct Blues” seems to unite all the different elements present during “Ancestral Swamp” into one; there are hints of folk, blues, and even a little bit of rock in the creation of the song – the weary yet compelling vocals laid here by Hurley are the cherry on top of the sundae. Hurley is still touring and will likely create a few more albums before hanging up eir instruments, so pick up this album, see eir live, and keep an ear to the ground for any more news from the Hurley camp.

Top Tracks: El Dorado, Gambling Charlie

Rating: 7.0/10

Author: James McQuiston

Ph.D. in Political Science, Kent State University.

I have been the editor at NeuFutur / neufutur.com since I was 15. Looking for new staff members all the time; email me if you are interested. Thanks!

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