Michael Hurley – Lonesome Graveyard

Michael Hurley has been writing songs and performing since the early 1960s, though never in the same place for very long. His first release, First Songs, came out on Folkways Recordings in 1964 and he didn’t release another record until 1971’s Armchair Boogie. Though Lonesome Graveyard features keyboards over guitar, much of his output relies on acoustic guitar, fiddle, and his weary vocals. Before he even began writing songs, he would draw comics for his own amusement which featured two wolf characters named Boonie and Jocko who wear human clothes, drink wine, and generally philander. He paints the art for his albums himself, and many feature these two and other humanoid animals engaged in other forms of debauchery. Over the years he has developed something of a cult following, and as a result he’s been able to release records and perform pretty regularly since the early 1970s. His songs have been covered by the likes of Cat Power and Espers, which has led to increased interest in his work in recent years. According to an interview with NPR:

“They have to have their festivals … [w]henever they have one, they have to have their grandfather with them, which is good for me, because my peers aren’t going to come out that night anyway.”

With over 25 releases, it can be a bit daunting to know where to start. For what it’s worth, I’d check out Armchair Boogie, Parsnip Snips, and Ancestral Swamp.

Lal & Mike Waterson – Danny Rose

Perhaps best known for their tight vocal harmonies and recordings of old folk standards as The Watersons, Danny Rose comes off Lal and Mike Watersons now-beloved folk classic Bright Phoebus. The renewed interest in folk music in the 1960s was kind to the ancient sounding vocal work of The Waterson Family. However, many fans of their vocal work were not kind to Bright Phoebus because it incorporated elements of rock n’ roll and country music, an apparent betrayal to their central role in the folk revival. It was beset by further problems when half of the 2,000 albums were pressed with center holes which were not quite center followed by their label, Trailer Records, going bankrupt soon after.

Since this initial frosty response, it has since been embraced as a pioneering record and many covers have been recorded. The best version I’ve heard comes from Hiss Golden Messenger and William Tyler who I first heard perform it on a cassette recording of a session at Duke University’s WXDU. The record was recorded in a tizzy over a two week period, and includes performances from Richard Thompson and Steeleye Span’s Tim Hart. Lal Waterson passed away in 2009 and Mike went two years later, leaving behind a once-forgotten gem that has now become a collector’s items, with original pressings fetching as much as 280 bucks.