Mississippi John Hurt:  Live at Oberlin College 4-15-65

Jeff Tamarkin on December 1, 2017

The music on Live at Oberlin College 4-15- 65 may sound familiar to astute fans of the influential country-blues singer—the 1965 Mississippi John Hurt concert at the Ohio institution has been released and rereleased numerous times under different titles and in different configurations over the years. All of its 21 songs are included on this latest version, but whether they are presented in the correct original playing order—many previous releases show different track orders, including 1971’s The Best of… on Vanguard—is anyone’s guess. The brief liner notes provided by Robert Schert, who actually recorded the show, never address the sequence. Nonetheless, the recording holds up all these decades later. Hurt was active all the way back in the ‘20s, but was rediscovered just in time to be worshiped by the folk-revival crowd of the ‘60s who embraced his simple, unadorned acoustic performances of now-classic numbers like “Candy Man,” “Nobody’s Business (But Mine)” and “Salty Dog Blues,” all of which are presented early in the program along with several gospel hymns. Latter-day Hurt employed an easygoing, casual vocal approach—not the rough-hewn growl of many contemporaries—and a spirited fingerpicking guitar style to match, knitting in subtle slide licks seamlessly (as in “Talkin’ Casey”). In both his music and banter, he comes off as an endearing, good natured performer who was probably still marveling at his recent rediscovery, happy to be presenting what was, even then, ancient music to a new batch of appreciative listeners.

Artist: Mississippi John Hurt
Album: Live at Oberlin College 4-15-65