Down and Dirty with G. Love: The Gentle Blues of Mississippi John Hurt
For the final installment on the Delta blues, I've chosen to write about one of my favorites, the legendary John Hurt. First recorded in the '30s and '40s and later rediscovered during the folk revival of the '60s, Hurt's career was long, and his impact on the Delta blues is profound.
It's like I always say, it's hard to classify these artists in one category. Listen to Robert Johnson and John Hurt back to back and it's hard to say they play the same music. But there it is, the Delta blues in all its rage and glory.
When I think about Mississippi John Hurt, I think of adjectives like gentle, soft-spoken, soothing, sly, charming and personable. He is indeed a very likeable character. He is one of those rare musicians who you feel like you really know. His songs are so personal and his delivery is nothing but inviting.
When I listen to his music I feel like I know him. I know his loves, his hometown, his trials and tribulations. That’s what music is all about: communicating. And that's what Hurt does best.
Hurt's fingerpicking is about the best fingerpicking you can find. All of his songs are in that picking style with the thumb droning on the bass note and his fingers plucking melodies that echo or respond to his lyrics. His rhythm is steady and rolling, never in a rush, never too slow, always just right. His vocals are a melodic rap and he is almost singing through his songs in a talking voice. He never raises his voice, no yelling or hooting, jut steady and mellow with an entrancing lilt. He sings of love, home, gunfights, John Henry and coffee.
Here are a couple of my favorite Mississippi John Hurt tracks, "John Henry" and "Avalon Blues," which is a song about his hometown Avalon, Mississippi. I always love this one because my part-time hometown was Avalon, New Jersey, but wherever you're coming from, you can dig it.
Over the years, Hurt's fluid picking style has been a huge influence on me and has inspired many tunes of mine, including "Gimme Some Lovin'," "Everybody" and "Katie Miss" from my latest release, Fixin to Die.
All in all, Mississippi John Hurt's style is a wonderful example of the fact that blues can be stylistically anything you make of it. Find your originality within these blues and you've really found something.
Check out this tab for another of my favorites, "Coffee Blues."
Trust me: He ain't talking about coffee.
Keep on jamming and keep it down and dirty.
Thanks for stopping by. Your friend,
G. Love, aka Garrett Dutton, has been the front man and founder of the alternative hip-hop blues group G. Love & Special Sauce since their inception in 1993. Widely known for his upbeat hits "Cold Beverage," "Baby's Got Sauce" and "Hot Cookin'," G. Love returned to his blues and country roots on his latest release, Fixin' To Die (Amazon, iTunes), produced by Scott and Seth Avett. A road dog if one ever existed, G. Love performs roughly 125 shows a year all over the world including Australia, Japan, Brazil, UK, Canada and the U.S. G. Love teamed up with Gretsch to create his own signature model, the Gretsch G. Love Signature Electromatic Corvette, which features a pair of TV Jones® Power'Tron™ pickups, deluxe mini-precision tuners and a cool Phili-green color scheme with competition stripe that would make ANYONE from Philadelphia proud! Check it out here.
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