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Michael Hurley - Down In Dublin

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Artist: Michael Hurley

Album: Down In Dublin

Label: Blue Navigator

Review date: Feb. 10, 2005

Michael Hurley’s albums creep up on you, and this one’s no exception. Give it one lazy listen and you might walk away wondering why people make such a fuss about the guy. After all, it’s just some creaky-voiced hippy backed by an Irish old-timey band strumming and singing at a decidedly unhurried clip, right?

All that is true, but by no means is it the whole story. Hurley triumphs where others fail because behind his ultra-relaxed demeanor he’s an enormously skilled entertainer. He’s got an unerring sense for just the right point in a song to let his voice crack or thin out, the better to make you shed a tear or crack a smile. His guitar playing is functional and unflashy, like a pair of yardwork jeans, but it’s also just as tough and broken-in.

As a bonus, having a band on Down In Dublin frees Hurley to play his astringent, ancient-sounding fiddle; Hurley’s scraping adds just the right earthy accent to “Slurf Song” and “Whiskey Willy,” a couple of the man’s patented celebrations of adventures along the alimentary canal. The one banjo tune, “Uncle Smoochface,” captures another facet of Hurley’s charm; he’s a master at spinning yarns about guys you’d rather not meet, but might bust a gut hearing what they’ve done... so long as it wasn’t with your sister, or wife, or mom.

“Have I told You Lately” is full of regret, yet limned with confidence and hope; it shows how Hurley can tug at your heartstrings without jerking your chain, and wring complex truths from simple tunes. There’s a whole lot more to this old coot than first meets the eye.

By Bill Meyer

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