Vanguard Visionaries

by: Mississippi John Hurt

Founded in 1950 by brothers Seymour Solomon and Maynard Solomon just as the LP format was taking hold (it had been introduced to the market two years previously), Vanguard Records took full advantage of the longer playing time afforded and began life as a classical label, moving easily into jazz, then gospel, bluegrass, blues, and folk (as Joan Baez's label, they had a high profile during the 1960s folk revival), eventually experimenting with rock groups like the Frost, although folk and classical remained the label's forte. Vanguard was sold to the Welk Group in 1985. The new owners set about revitalizing the imprint's back catalog, and also began adding contemporary recordings of country and pop artists as the 21st century began. To celebrate the imprint's rapidly approaching 60th anniversary, Vanguard has released a series of brief artist samplers (Vanguard Visionaries) from the label's peak 1960s and early-'70s era, including this one from Mississippi John Hurt. A gentle blues songster with an impressive acoustic guitar style, Hurt had made a handful of recordings with OKeh Records over a pair of sessions in 1928, but never developed a professional career and dropped from sight shortly afterwards. Hurt was rediscovered in 1965 during the folk and blues revival, and the considerable guitar skills and gentle vocal approach that highlighted his 1928 recordings were still very much intact. He recorded four albums for Vanguard (one of them was actually a concert recording made at Oberlin College in 1965) in the mid-'60s, each of them a pure delight. This brief sampler draws from those four albums and includes fine versions of such traditional country blues fare as "Candy Man," "Stagolee," and "Spike Driver Blues." ~ Steve Leggett

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