Michael Hurley | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Michael Hurley 

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MICHAEL HURLEY

Because oddball folkie Michael Hurley records so rarely--he's put out only a dozen albums in the last 35 years--there's a temptation to call every new one a "comeback." But this irascible character has made sure there's nothing to come back to: he operates as a hobbyist, hitting the road when he feels like it, playing whatever songs strike his fancy, and then, when he's had enough, retreating to attend to his other hobbies, which include painting, cooking, and fixing cars and eight-track tapes. His new album, Weatherhole (Field Recording Co.), delivers the usual mix of quirky love songs (the heart is a touchy transmission in "Your Old Gearbox"), wry hippie humor ("It's against the law, we know, we know / You ain't shittin' ho, ho, ho / But in nature's law, we know, we know / It is written, grow, grow, grow," he sings in "Nat'l Weed Growers Assoc."), and bizarrely rendered pearls of wisdom ("Wildegeeses," about fooling with Mother Nature). Hurley draws on the blues, old-timey country, bluegrass, boogie-woogie, and popular song and plays guitar, fiddle, banjo, and piano, but he weaves them all together with disarming subtlety and a one-of-a-kind perspective--his musically creaky but spiritually reverent treatment of the gospel standard "Lean on Me" is over before you can absorb just how deeply he's transformed it. Miss this show and miss one of the few living musicians with a genuine feel for the old, weird America of Harry Smith's folk anthology. Friday, 8 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport; 773-525-2508.

PETER MARGASAK

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jeff Valentine.

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