Beck, Williams, Harper Salute Mississippi John Hurt

Beck, Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle and his son Justin, Taj Mahal, John Hiatt, Gillian Welch, Ben Harper, Geoff Muldaur, Mark Selby, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Bruce Cockburn, Chris Smither, and Bill Morr

Beck, Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle and his son Justin, Taj Mahal, John Hiatt, Gillian Welch, Ben Harper, Geoff Muldaur, Mark Selby, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Bruce Cockburn, Chris Smither, and Bill Morrissey are among the artists who have contributed newly recorded tracks to "Avalon Blues: A Tribute to the Music of Mississippi John Hurt," due Tuesday (June 12) on Vanguard.

The album was executive produced by singer/songwriter Peter Case, who duets with recent Grammy winner Dave Alvin on "Monday Morning Blues." Even Case's ex-wife, Victoria Williams, contributes a version of "Since I've Laid My Burden Down."

One of the true giants of Delta blues, Hurt made a series of recordings for OKeh Records in 1928 that were distinguished by their unconventional song structures, dazzling guitar work, and subdued, almost sweet vocals. He disappeared back into Mississippi after cutting those sides. But, after his rediscovery by Tom Hoskins in 1963, Hurt enjoyed a remarkable career resurgence during the American folk revival and made a number of new albums, most notably for Vanguard, before his death in 1966.

Case says he fell under Hurt's spell as a 14-year-old exploring the music collection of the library in his hometown of Hamburg, N.Y. "I was interested in weird folk blues records," he recalls. "The first week I [borrowed] a Josh White record. The next week I got [the 1966 Vanguard album] 'Mississippi John Hurt Today!' I took it home, and it blew my head off."

Case went on to perform Hurt's music as a street busker in San Francisco in the period during the '70s before he moved to L.A. and founded the influential pop/rock bands the Nerves and the Plimsouls.

Initially recruiting friends, musical associates, and sympathetic labelmates for the project, Case picked up other performers for "Avalon Blues" as interested musicians heard about the tribute and called to offer their services. "Two or three generations of current musicians seem to be deeply influenced by him," says Case. "[The album is] almost like a night with a bunch of people sitting in a living room and passing a guitar around."
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