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<i>Avalon Blues,</i> A Tribute to the Music of 'Mississippi' John Hurt - 2001-07-23

For two months in 1928, bluesman "Mississippi" John Hurt ventured to Memphis and New York City to record his music. He then disappeared into the hills of the Mississippi Delta before being rediscovered in 1963.

John Hurt only toured during the three years before his death in 1966, but the blues icon's brief career influenced countless listeners. Fifteen of Hurt's better-known fans are featured on a new tribute CD called Avalon Blues.

It's hard to imagine a guitar player who has had such an influence on so many styles of music as "Mississippi" John Hurt.

Every few decades, the music of John Hurt is saved from obscurity by a new generation of admirers. Avalon Blues, a winning and warm tribute by performers including Beck, Lucinda Williams and Chris Smither, is the latest rescue.

Chris Smither is one of 15 artists breathing new life into the songs of John Hurt on Avalon Blues. This is more of a folk-rock-blues album than a strict delta blues collection. And while blues purists may object, the concept is that the variety will expose some of Hurt's songs to fans who buy it because they like Steve Earle or Beck, not because they think of themselves as blues fans.

Singer-songwriter Peter Case produced the album and, with Dave Alvin, offers a new take on "Monday Morning Blues." Case says the idea behind this tribute was not to make a traditional record and have people imitate Hurt, but to give their impression of the spirit and feel of his music.

There's something for every taste on Avalon Blues - Gospel from Alvin Youngblood Hart, spicy blues from Taj Mahal and even a humorous spelling lesson in "Chicken" by Geoff Muldaur and his daughters.

Avalon Blues is a wonderful exploration of the wide-ranging roots of "Mississippi" John Hurt's music. No matter what your taste in music, in the end you're sure to say "I'm Satisfied," just as singer John Hiatt does.