Michael Hurley - Armchair Boogie
Recorded with Jesse Colin Young, Armchair Boogie is Hurley’s debut album proper, and the one in which he set out his stall as purveyor of charming, homely, folksy songs. It is, essentially, 14 songs about love and strange things – werewolves (‘Werewolf’), institutionalized English gentry (‘English Nobleman’) and aquatic birds (‘Penguin’) all appear. Credited to Michael Hurley and pals, Young is among the friends who appear. Largely acoustic, it features little more than the sound of Hurley’s guitar and voice and the occasional mouth trumpet.
This is the highly sought-after album sounding better than it ever has. It comes with a 36 page facsimile reproduction of the cartoon book drawn by Hurley, who does all his own artwork, this time following the exploits of two hick wolves named Jocko and Boone. It’s housed in a deluxe, gatefold, tip-on jacket.
Born in 1941 in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, Hurley moved to New York in the early ‘60s, where he began making his name on the subversive Greenwich Village folk scene before contracting mono and spending years in and out of hospital. Back in health, he was discovered by blues and jazz historian Frederick Ramsey III and subsequently championed by boyhood friend Jesse Colin Young, he recorded his debut album, 1964’s First Songs for Folkways, on the same reel-to-reel machine that taped Lead Belly’s Last Sessions. Its songs were borrowed by Holy Modal Rounders and The Youngbloods, the latter signing Hurley to their Raccoon imprint and releasing his next two albums. The singer-songwriter came into his own recording those warm, eccentric records, colored as they are by fantastic characters, charming Americana and homemade blues.