today’s album a day was mississippi john hurt – today. actually i listened to this several days ago. i’ve got a backlog of a few of these posts, and john is the oldest. this past couple weeks i’ve been listening to many discs from the same, well known personages and i’ll write about them as time permits. but i did not want to leave out mississippi john hurt.
mississippi john had charming voice and a classic blues-informed delivery, with country accents. his guitar work was brisk and clear, played almost always without a pick. and his voice was seasoned, a little gravely, but touchingly melodic.
he shares his story with a lot of blues men. he came from a sharecropper background and recorded some music early on, but went back to farming and his regular life, playing music just for himself and his friends and family as a past time. it would take some true audiophiles to hear some of his early work to track him down. they helped present him to the world properly, where he was awarded a brief attention before his death, touring and playing on tv. at least someone got to him before he was gone.
a lot of the great, black blues guitarists learned a method of playing that was pickless, much like mississippi john played. i can relate to this. guitars can be had sometimes, but where can you find picks when you are poor? when i say this i am remembering myself, learning metallica licks on an acoustic guitar of mexican manufacture in 10th or 11th grade. it had four strings. saxophone was my main instrument, but i thought you had to know ‘some’ guitar, like you had to know ‘some’ piano. you had to be proficient.
i remember a friend of mine came to visit me in this little town i ended up in. he had guitar picks in the ashtray of his mazda. i couldn’t believe donny had picks, and more than one, even. he gave me a couple. up till then, i had learned some often very complicated pieces on the guitar without them. i couldn’t believe how easy they made some of it to play. it just didn’t occur to me to seek them out, or even the other strings i was missing.
and in this i imagine some poor guy, in the late 40s, working on a farm. he has a guitar. it might not be that great, but he can play it and make it sound like he needs. he doesn’t have a capo, or sometimes all the strings, or picks. he’s just got a song to play. that’s how i felt too.
anyways – i really liked mississippi john and his sweet, charming sound.
below hear one of the two versions of ‘i shall not be moved’ which appeared on this wonderful disc: