A singer/songwriter in the subversive Greenwich Village folk scene of the late '60s and '70s, with several songs lent to the Holy Modal Rounders, Michael Hurley maintained an infrequent solo career into the '90s but was more famed for his writing credits.
Born on December 20, 1941 in Pennsylvania, he migrated to Greenwich Village by the early '60s and was ready to sign a major record deal when he contracted mononucleosis; after spending several years in the hospital, Hurley returned to music and released a Folkways album in 1964 titled First Songs. Though he was inactive through the rest of the '60s, several songs from his first LP were borrowed by both the Holy Modal Rounders and the Youngbloods, who signed Hurley to their Raccoon label in 1970. He delivered two albums for Raccoon, Armchair Boogie and Hi-Fi Snock Uptown, but was inactive again by 1972.
Four years later, Holy Modal Rounders leader Peter Stampfel recruited Hurley for a 1976 project, Have Moicy. The group's self-titled album was critically praised, landing recommendations for Album of the Year by The Village Voice and Top 20 LPs of the '70s by Rolling Stone. Hurley's prominent place on the album -- guitar, fiddle, several lead vocals -- gave notice that he was ready to resume his solo career, and he signed to the folk label Rounder in 1977. Hurley released only two LPs for the label (Long Journey and Snockgrass), spending most of his time on his farm in Vermont or playing sideman on several albums. He resurfaced occasionally, recording LPs in 1984, 1988, 1995, and 1999.
Hurley continued to record in the 21st century. In fact, from the late '90s he was embraced by hip indie singer/songwriters such as Devendra Banhart and Chan Marshall, who were attracted to the singer's unconventional vocals and esoteric sensibility. He issued records in the 21st century beginning with reissues of The Bellemeade Sessions and Weatherhole, followed by a new recording, Sweetkorn, in 2002 on Germany's Trikont imprint. It was followed by Down in Dublin in 2004. Hurley released two albums for Banhart's Gnomonsong label as well: Ancestral Swamp in 2007 and Ida Con Snock in 2009; the prestigious vinyl-only collectors imprint Mississippi reissued his 1995 album Parsnip Snips that same year, and his 1972 album Hi-Fi Snock Uptown in 2010. ~ John Bush, Rovi