Michael Hurley

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Location

  • Portland, OR

Artist Biography

Michael Hurley grew up in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. As a teenager in the 1950s he fell in love hearing the music of Fats Domino, The Everly Brothers and Bo Diddley blast from the radio, and was enthralled by the records of Blind Willie McTell, Hank Williams and Uncle Dave Macon that he sought for his own. This love for music, true and unvarnished, supplied him with a finely tuned musical compass he has not wavered from for 50 years and counting. Hurley's music sounds old, like it has always existed, and simultaneously singular, like something you've never heard anyone else play quite like that before. This timeless quality ensures that Hurley's audience constantly renews itself. From the the beatniks in the NYC Village where he started in the early 60s, to the hippies in Vermont, to the Americana fans, indie rockers and freak folkers from the last two decades, Michael's music never fails to find fresh new ears. Pressed for a description, Hurley has called it "jazz-hyped blues and country and western music".

Hurley's early records were released on Folkways, Warner Brothers/Raccoon and Rounder, while in recent years stalwart independent labels like Gnomonsong, Mississippi and Tompkins Square have been carrying the torch. A new album on the Mississippi label is due this spring. Besides being a truly unique musician, Hurley is also a cartoonist and watercolor artist of note — the instantly recognizable results of which grace his album covers.Hurley now resides on the west coast, so east coast appearances have been scarce the last decade. Old and new fans should not pass up the rare opportunity to catch Michael in action on various New England and New York state stages.

Selected Press

Undoubtedly one of this country's greatest folk singers, Hurley has little in common with the majority of today's folk performers. While they seem bent on demonstrating that all people are alike, such a suffocating presumption has no place in this man's work. Michael Hurley is nothing like his potential audience. What better reason to hear what he has to say?
Chuck Cuminale
...I don’t know what else to say about what he writes and sings, other than that it is gosh-darned great. What kind of music is it? Hell, what kind of weeds does God grow? Let's just shut up and listen and go to where Michael Hurley is. After all, we can always turn around and come back. He can't.
Nick Tosches
Michael Hurley is the last unreconstructed folkie-shaman in America. His songs are primordial tales of the hunt for good cheer and satisfying sex, etched like cave paintings on city walls and farmland silos. Like many characters in his songs, his voice seems to have been run over by the dump truck of life, but it marries human mystery to forthright music like no other.
Milo Miles
Whether weaving a yarn about a mysterious hog or comparing the human heart to a mechanic's toolbox, Mr. Hurley create(s) elaborate vistas in a musical version of outsider art
Ann Powers / New York Times
Hurley remains one of the elusive masters of American folk
Chris Morris / Billboard
Trusting in his own peculiarities, Hurley makes the world spin just a little bit slower, and a little bit bumpier. Somehow it feels much more natural that way.
Jim Macnie
Somehow, thinking of Hurley, I find myself thinking also of Samuel Beckett. Now I don't see Hurley having much truck with the modernist strain of 20th Century art, and, as a high school dropout, he would probably be nauseated by the gasbag spewings of the ivory tower intellectual. A true and deliberate neo-primitive, his inspiration springs from nature, the rural blues and the lure of remote hills and woodlands, landscapes that loom in the backgrounds of his comics like vast parabolic gumdrops.
Vernon Tonges
Since the earliest of the 60s, when he started rambling with his fiddlin' Bucks County buddy Robin Remaily, Hurley has slowly carved out a monolithic catalog that stands as a one of the richest in the history of American folk music.

Frank van den Elzen and Leslie Gaffney, Popwatch

Upcoming Performances