This compilation is a rich selection from the tracks that Mississippi John Hurt recorded in the three years before his death from a heart attack in 1966. It includes choices from four albums: “Today!” (1966), “The Immortal Mississippi John Hurt” (1967), “Last Sessions” (1972, but recorded in 1966), and “The Best Of Mississippi John Hurt” (1970), recorded at an Oberlin College concert in April 1965). These last years of his life had been extremely busy for him, following his re-discovery on his farm by researching fans in the early sixties. Totally self-taught as a guitarist, John had previously recorded and released half a dozen singles on the Okeh label in 1928 without any great commercial success. From here on he settled into his family and farming life, although he maintained his playing, participating in local dances in and around Avalon, Mississippi and getting paid up to $5 for his trouble. As the years rolled on, and especially as the folk revival movement gathered force, there was growing interest in his music which was enough to prompt people to try to find him again.
His unique syncopated finger-picking style of guitar playing was entrancing to everyone who heard him. It was a gentle style, strangely at odds with much of his material that had the word 'blues' in the titles. The gentleness was reflected in the face of the man now in his seventies and suddenly back in the limelight. It was the face of a contented man, seemingly at ease with himself and his place in the world; a man who could adapt to cope with many music business people wanting to record him again. He was invited to the 1963 Newport Folk Festival where he was enthusiastically received by knowledgeable fans, and then spent the years until his death playing concerts and recording albums.
This compilation, that benefits from modern technology to enhance and restore the best sound, serves as a great sampler of his work. It contains his best-known material like ‘Coffee Blues’, ‘Hot Time in The Old Town Tonight’, ‘Avalon My Home Town’, ‘Candy Man’, and ‘Stagolee’, with the latter two being among his original 1928 single releases. Also here are his versions of songs like ‘You Are My Sunshine’, ‘Shortnin' Bread’, ‘Since I've Laid This Burden Down’ and ‘Ain't Nobody's Business’ alongside ‘Goodnight Irene’, one song that he introduces as having learnt from Leadbelly's record.
John's music was essentially gentle and a laid back mixture of country, old time and blues. He had been born in the nineteenth century, and had absorbed this rich cornucopia of styles ever since his interest in music began at around age seven. He played what he enjoyed in a style that suited him, and at Ace we are proud and delighted to be able to have available so much of his recordings alongside this collection.