Saturday Single No. 24

Originally posted August 4, 2007

I wandered through the collection last evening, half of my attention on the random tracks the RealPlayer was bringing up and half on a baseball game. None of the songs that popped up seemed to intrigue me. Some stuff by The Band wandered past, as did tracks from Big Mama Thornton, John Fred & His Playboy Band, Elvis, Mavis Staples and others.

Nothing grabbed me. And the Twins were losing to Cleveland.

Then the Texas Gal came into the room and asked how the selection was going. Not well, I told her. She came to the computer and told me to sort for songs from 1963, so I did. It’s actually a year that I haven’t done much with.

I scrolled down the list of 270 songs recorded, or at least released, in 1963, and the Texas Gal pointed to the name of Mississippi John Hurt and then to a single track. Amazingly, even though I have more than sixty of his recordings, this is the first time that the name of Mississippi John Hurt has appeared in this blog.

He’s often called a bluesman, having come to wide public attention during the blues boom during the 1960s, but that’s not quite right. He was more of a folk singer, or what would have been called a “songster” in the years before World War II. He sang some bluesy material, yes, but he also sang traditional folk songs as well as his own compositions, all backed by his complex and delicate guitar work. He is not what one thinks of when one hears the words “Mississippi bluesman.”

His music is definitely worth seeking out, whether you’re talking about the tracks he recorded for the Okeh label in the late 1920s or his recordings late in his life after he was “rediscovered” by blues enthusiasts in the 1960s. The most representative of those might be the 1963 recordings he did for the Library of Congress, now packaged by the Fuel label as D.C. Blues: Library of Congress Recordings. I have a fondness for the live recordings made during a 1964 performance at Oberlin College in Ohio that are now packaged by the Aim label as The Best of Mississippi John Hurt.

The track the Texas Gal selected for me comes from the Library of Congress recordings. She said she just liked the title, and that’s why Mississippi John Hurt’s “Nobody’s Dirty Business” is today’s Saturday Single.

Mississippi John Hurt – “Nobody’s Dirty Business” [1963]


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