Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Michael Hurley

  • Hi-Fi Snock Uptown [Raccoon, 1972] B-
  • Long Journey [Rounder, 1977] B+
  • Snockgrass [Rounder, 1980] A-
  • Blue Navigator [Rooster, 1984] B
  • Watertower [Fundamental, 1988] B+
  • Wolf Ways [Koch, 1995] Choice Cuts
  • Weatherhole [Field, 1999] ***
  • Ida Con Snock [Gnomonsong, 2009] *

See Also:

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Hi-Fi Snock Uptown [Raccoon, 1972]
When Hurley is good, his tunes snake up on you. When he's not, they snail right past, disappearing forever behind that cabbage leaf there. B-

Long Journey [Rounder, 1977]
Fingers trembling, the oft-cynical critic opened the new LP by the playful, sardonic folkie recluse. Without the Rounders or Jeffrey Fredericks to change paces, there was no way it could be another Have Moicy! (Aw.) But it might be woozy and charming, like Armchair Boogie. (Hey!) Or cute and dull, like Hi-Fi Snock Uptown. (Duh.) Also, the critic might fall asleep before finding out. Four months and many snoozes later, he arrived at a verdict: sardonic, charming, playful, cute, woozy, and only rarely dull. Highly recommended to Have Moicy! cultists. Hitbound: "Hog of the Forsaken." Whoopee. B+

Snockgrass [Rounder, 1980]
More songs about dying and food--and rambling, mustn't forget rambling--from the old-timey existentialist, whose oblique wail recalls both Jerry Garcia and John Prine because all three are more obsessed with mountain vocal styles than most mountain vocal stylists. "Jole' Blon," "Tia Marie," and a few others are more or less what you'd expect, but if you ever expected "You Gonna Look Like a Monkey" or "I Heard the Voice of a Porkchop," you're two up on me. A-

Blue Navigator [Rooster, 1984]
Us snockgrass fans didn't await this long-awaited album quite long enough--sounds as if Hurley padded over to the studio before he was done with his nap. I know it's always sleepy time up north in Wolfville, and Hurley obviously spent part of his four-year vacation thinking about seven new originals. But except for the . . . climactic "Open Up (Eternal Lips)," even the best of them get lost on their way to the outhouse. Inspirational Insert: "Feel free to tape this album: Blue Navigator is not soley [sic] a commercial venture but is intended for a spiritual life far out traveling the destination of one arrow." B

Watertower [Fundamental, 1988]
His core audience couldn't be much over 2000, and since I'm on its fringe, I don't much care that this typically unheralded, offhand, and tardy acoustic collection will make no converts. He still writes more calmly and curiously about the great beyond than anyone. What's more "Broadcasting the Blues" and "I Paint a Design," break thematic ground--television and professionalism, respectively. B+

Wolf Ways [Koch, 1995]
"I Paint a Design" Choice Cuts

Weatherhole [Field, 1999]
Shoebox of American folk music ("Nat'l Weed Growers Assoc.," "Your Old Gearbox"). ***

Ida Con Snock [Gnomonsong, 2009]
He's been hitching the eternal to the silly ever since he gave up running for the bus in 1965 ("Ragg Mopp," "I Stole the Right to Live"). *