It's always wise to be thankful for little miracles. That Mississippi John Hurt was "rediscovered" living only a mile away from the crossroads hamlet of Avalon, MS, deduced from the title of a 78-rpm recording he'd made in 1928, by a young guitar player from Washington, DC, named Tom Hoskins, is a miracle we all should be grateful for. That Hurt could still play and sing as well in 1963 when Hoskins found him as he did in 1928 is another praiseworthy miracle. Finally, that the Library of Congress showed the interest and was able to induce Hurt to come to the Coolidge Auditorium in DC in July of 1963 and record dozens of songs as the crowning achievement of his legacy is perhaps the biggest miracle of all, capped off with the fact that all of us now can enjoy those recorded gems with this double-CD set.
Hurt was one of the most lyrical country blues artists who ever lived. He was born and lived his whole life in the Delta, yet he was untouched and uninfluenced by the great Delta musicians (Patton, Johnson, Skip James, et.al.) and their gruff, extroverted singing and string-busting guitar-playing tradition. Hurt sang in a deep, quiet voice and played intricate, even delicate, patterns on his guitar. The masterpieces from'27 (CANDY MAN, STACKOLEE, LOUIS COLLINS, NOBODY'S DIRTY BUSINESS, and, of course, AVALON BLUES) are all revived here and sound just as good as they did back in '28 (the sound, of course, is much better). There are 35 titles in this 2-CD set and every one is a beauty. John Hurt is a national treasure and these LoC recordings are a testament to his genius. Definitely grab these CDs (hopefully Fuel will issue the remaining unissued sides in Volume 2) and then get the 1928 Okeh recordings (on a Columbia CD) and, finally, check out Hurt's Newport and other post-rediscovery albums on Vanguard (on a nice 3-CD set). You will not be disappointed - the man was amazing.