Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Chrome on the Range
A couple of years ago, in a review of an earlier Michael Hurwitz album in Sing Out! Magazine, I wrote: “The recordings of Michael Hurwitz, an honest-to-goodness cowboy from Wyoming, have become big favourites of mine over the past several years and Cowboy Fandango is another one that I can’t stop playing a lot. He’s got one of those comfortable voices and delivery styles that makes me think I’m listening to an old friend – we’ve never even met – and the arrangements, built around Michael’s acoustic guitar and featuring instruments like fiddle, pedal steel, mandolin, and a very tasteful rhythm section, are timeless, sounding like they could have been recorded recently or almost any time in the past 50 or 60 years. Plus, his songs tell stories that make me want to listen from the first line to the last.”
Those comments also apply to Michael’s new album, Chrome on the Range, a compelling set of mostly-western story songs delivered in various blends of folk, country, western swing and blues. Among the many highlights on the CD are “Ed Trafton,” a western ballad about an older, gentlemanly stage coach robber; “Edith,” the story of an eccentric fiddler at the time of the turn of the last century; “Cowboys Gone Wild,” a humorous barroom tune sung in duet with Tracy Nelson; and “Minnie Sang the Blues,” a talking blues about Memphis Minnie, or, really about remembering the circumstances of being introduced to Memphis Minnie records as a kid that’s reminiscent of such Guy Clark songs as “Randall Knife” and “Let Him Roll.”
Along with a dozen of his own songs, Michael also includes really nice versions of Elizabeth Cotten’s “Shake Sugaree” and Gary McMahan’s “Real Live Buckeroo.” McMahan trades verses with Michael on the latter.
The playing by Michael's band, the Aimless Drifters, is never aimless. In fact, their tasty accompaniments add much to the richness of Michael's songs.
As I also mentioned in that Sing Out! review, “If, like me, you’re a fan of the cowboy songs of Ian Tyson, Tom Russell and Bill Staines, you should be listening to Michael Hurwitz too.”