Vintage Guitar - July 2018 - open - 88

Hurt and the Guild on the cover of a 2009 greatest
hits compilation on Cleopatra Records.

Very good condition. I've done some
research with experts here in Nashville
and believe it was refinished in the late
'70s, in the original sunburst style - not
exact, because every sunburst is different.
Its nickel tuners had been replaced with
plastic keys. Other than that, it's intact and
documented as the '64 Guild F-30 John
played at the Newport Folk Festival after
he was rediscovered in '63. The folks at
Newport wanted to buy a guitar for him; I
believe it was Patrick Sky, a folk singer, who
took him to a shop in Greenwich Village
called Fretted Instruments. They told him
he could pick anything and were shocked
he picked the F-30 because it wasn't the
most-expensive guitar. But that's what
he liked. There are many photos of him
playing it at Newport that year. He went
on to play a number of guitars, but that's
the one most identified with him.

on bass, and Josh Day on
drums. Then I enhanced
it by inviting Sam Bush to
play mandolin, and Russ
Pahl, who's an innovative
pedal steel player. Then
I brought in my secret
weapon, Nathaniel Smith, on
cello. The cello and pedal steel
make a sonic bed that's very
unique.
The first track I played was
"Stack O Lee" - tex tbook
Mississippi John Hurt. When
I added the rhythm section, it
took on this early rock/roots
feel - Sun Records, Memphis,
late-'50s rock. That was the
template, and it was all cut
live to analog tape with no
overdubs. I sang and played.
Basically what you hear is what
was performed in the studio.
And it just kept getting better.
I had plenty of Mississippi John Hurt
songs, but started thinking of it as a
Hurt got the F-30 in 1964, when
organizers of the Newport Folk Festival
took him shopping in Greenwich Village.

musical snapshot of the era. The
Mississippi John Hurt songs are
those he recorded in the late '20s
for Okeh Records. So I started
thinking, "What were the songs
that were contemporary in that
late '20s and early '30s, when he
was recording for the first time?" I
did some research and found that he
was a big fan of Emmett Miller. So I
thought I'd find some songs that were
contemporary back then to complete
this musical snapshot.
People mistakenly lump Hurt in
with Delta blues, but he was not a Delta
blues player. He was a Piedmont player,
his style much more akin to ragtime. If
you're going to go ragtime, you gotta
go with the maestro, and that's Blind
Blake. So I picked a Blind Blake song.
The album took on a much richer
palette of early American popular
music. That's what the album ended
up becoming.
Did you spend much time with
Hurt?

I met him backstage at 2nd Fret. He
was quiet and shy, and I loved his sly
sense of humor. He played songs like
"Candy Man," in such a cool, innocent
way and with a smile on his

You bring a lot of Hurt's feel to Arkansas.

MJH Guild F-30: Philip Murphy.

The album was obviously inspired by
him. I went in to record some Mississippi
John Hurt songs in the most traditional
way - just guitar and voice. I know almost
all of his material and know it in a very
authentic way because I watched him and
learned from my guitar teacher, who spent
a lot of time with him. After cutting a few
songs, I stepped back and said, "Why am
I doing this? It's been done and I'll never
do it as good as the original. What's the
point?" Then I woke up one night and
thought, "What if I played these songs
with a band?" So I assembled a unique
band. The rhythm section is guys I've
been playing with for a while - Guthrie
Trapp on electric guitar, Steve Mackey
VINTAGE GUITAR

88

July 2018


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