MICHAEL HURLEY Snockgrass (Light In The Attic)

The title and cover art had me bracing myself for all manner of heavy psychedelia, but this 1980 album is anything but. Michael Hurley’s music is redolent of a Jerry Garcia or Jorma Kaukonen solo project: post-Watergate Aquarian age values in a bluegrass-country-folk setting, all bound together by whimsical almost-storytelling. It’s a kind of herbally-infused (or Rolling Rock-infused, looking at the photo of the artist on the back cover) back porch music. Neither mainstream nor too distant from it, Hurley tends to throw a little extra circuitousness into his melodies, which helps keep them fresh and interesting, and then adds some gently strummed mandolins to smooth out the bumps.  

“I’m Gettin’ Ready To Go” is a tale of satanic abduction that sounds like a gleefully subverted spiritual, and the likes of “Automatic Slim & The Fat Boys” and “I Heard The Voice Of A Porkchop” add levels of barely decodable whimsy to throw the listener off anything like a literal interpretation., typifying the album’s gentle, if baffling, amiability. “Jole Blon”, on the other hand, is a full-on, altered country waltz production.

Light In The Attic, a company that appear to specialise in reissuing the kind of material that labels like Sundazed might consider too esoteric or obscure, have done a pretty good job of bringing “Snockgrass” back to vinyl. It sounds good enough, probably equalling Sundazed’s efforts on the sonic reasonableness scale