Last week I interviewed the Holy Modal Rounders in preview of their Aladdin Theater show and they had nothing but great things to say about their friend/collaborator Michael Hurley, who plays Sunday at Rotture (315 SE 3rd). Hurley, if you haven't heard of him, has been making weird-ish, psychedelic folk for as long as 16 Devendra Banharts have been alive and he continues to get deeper and better. Here's what the Rounders told me...
ROGER NORTH: When the Rounders were settled in to the Portland area in the 1970s, Michael came out to visit several times and played quite a few gigs in conjunction with the Rounders and Clamtones. For the last two years or so he has been spending a lot of time in Oregon, occasionally doing tours with Dave Reisch playing bass, and playing with various members of the Freak Mountain Ramblers/LaurelThirst [Public House] family. I think Michael is one of the best and most authentic folk songwriters in America—he has written hundreds of songs and his lyrics and melodies are unique. His laidback style of writing and singing is, to me, as real as it gets.
TEDDY DEANE: I met Michael at a concert in a gymnasium at some school in Massachusetts. I had my baritone sax and Michael asked me to join him for a tune, which I had never heard before. I was playing with Martin Mull at the time and I think I went with him; he knew Michael somehow. Actually it was Marty who introduced me to Peter Stampfel, which is how I entered the Rounders in the first place.
Why do you think younger people are so interested in Hurley?
PETER STAMPFEL: For one thing, he does a lot of gigging, so he's actually more visible than the rest of the extended family—so he's the visible origin of freakfolk or whatever you wanna call it.
DAVE REISCH: I played a show with [Hurley] opening for Dave Van Ronk—Bradford, Vermont. '87 or so. After his set, Dave cornered him and told him, "You're the most fey writer I've ever seen! Look it up." He hears the Muse—or whatever you call them. No matter how young or old you are, the Muse—the Instigator—remains the same.
NORTH: I've lately heard some current singers that seem to have the same sort of low tech, "primitive" approach to songwriting and singing, and I think the folks that are following that type of music have discovered Michael. Then again, it may also be that he is just so sexy.