If you're wondering where the old 60s folk music vibe went, especially as translated into early 70s experimentations careful not to forsake troubadoric and madrigalian antecedents along with all that came between, then you need to check out James Hurley, 'cause Voice and Guitar is an exceedingly strong statement in the modus, reliant only upon his vocals and a guitar. Albums like this have always been a rarity, and Voice shows why: you'd better have your shit 100% together or you're going to crash and burn. An orchestra may be a bear to master and shape, but the ancient one-voice one-instrument approach to music is still the bottom-line toughest, requiring inhuman confidence and surpassing acumen. Hurley has both nailed and with a ton of warmth and humanity.
Let me start with Whisper, a laid-back cross between Sinatra, Tormé, and Chet Baker, gently strummed chords and gentle lead lines sauntering right beside James' airy encanting and crooning. The fusion of folk and light jazz is unmistakable, each the companion to the other. Sugar, on the other hand, is a cool blues very much mindful of something Bernie Pearl would write, the singing quite reminiscent of Pearl as well. Though you won't hear it in the music here, Hurley was very influenced by Jefferson Airplane, Paul Revere & the Raiders, Big Brother & the Holding Company, even Led Zeppelin…especially Stairway to Heaven. It was that song which in fact turned the page after a competitive rodeo accident early in his life. In 7-1/2 seconds, flying from saddle to Mother Earth, Hurley understood, lying injured in the dirt, that Wild West antics weren't really his thing, and the guitar became his boon buddy.
Donovan was one of James' influences, evident every so often, and I catch a good deal of Jessie Colin Young as well, not to mention Harry Chapin's good nature and the upbeat in Jim Croce's playing. Voice and Guitar is cafe music, Village Vanguard fare, a soundtrack for a small intimate gathering in Big Sur. And the recording is pristine, creating a vellum upon which everything is sketched and clarified. This is no fluke. Hurley brought in the engineers, producers, and mastering agents for such diverse musicians as Robben Ford, Michael Jackson, and Aerosmith. The resulting sonics take nothing from and add nothing to the result but instead chart singer and axe perfectly, a lucid vérité entablature of exactly what's there, no gimmicks, no bullshit, no nonsense, just damn good down-to-it music in a mode much too scamped as time progresses.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2015, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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