320 kbps | 139 MB | UL |
The question of whether Michael Hurley (aka Dock Snock) is a neglected national treasure or a mildly amusing pseudo-folky aberration is one that must be resolved in the ear of the individual listener. The fact that the question meets different answers in just about every quarter probably explains both Hurley’s legendary status among American roots musicians (he has played with everyone from the Youngbloods to Son Volt) and the fact that this album was released on a small German label more usually devoted to historical curiosities. On Sweetkorn, the aging Hurley evokes the sound of middle-period Tom Waits, though he comes by his junkyard instrumentation and ugly voice more honestly than Waits does. Same with the aggressively lo-fi production quality, which is a longstanding Waits affectation and, one senses, simply a reflection of the way things are for Hurley. Hurley’s “Ohio Blues” is spare and beautiful, as is his eerily lovely rendition of the pop classic “Mona Lisa”; he brings nothing particularly new or noteworthy to “Barbara Allen,” but “The End of the Road” sounds like a sly undermining of “Mommas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow up to Be Cowboys,” while “Negatory Romance” opens with this deathless couplet: “He’s wantin’ her more than he’s wantin’ his wife/Now buddy, that’s a good way to screw up your life.” Bard, sage, screwup, whatever — Michael Hurley’s generally worth hearing, and that’s certainly the case on this weird but charming album.