This was the second album to be released on Vanguard Records of John Hurt's music, following the famed “Today!” album. It emerged in 1967, the year after John's death late the preceding year and was part of the extensive recording that he had completed in his final years when he was into his seventies. The final years in 1963-6 had seen John play many concerts and club dates as well as completing a recording that had revived from its early days in the twenties. The man's talents were being embraced by a whole new generation, much to his own amusement and no doubt some bewilderment. The story of his re-discovery can be found in fuller detail elsewhere on this website, but suffice it to say he managed to cope pretty well with the sudden change from the farming life that he had followed for several decades. Indeed the notes with this re-issue written by his friend Dick Waterman paint a delightfully engaging portrait of a deeply religious and personable man who kept a twinkle in his eye right to the end.
Of the thirteen tracks here, three are traditional songs that would have been well known to audiences: ‘Since I've Laid My Burden Down’, ‘Moaning The Blues’ and ‘Nearer My God To Thee’. The rest were John's own songs, though some of course had roots in many corners of the folk and blues traditions. Among them the story of Stagolee stands out, as John cautions listeners to the ways of that particular bad man. It is a song that has re-appeared in many related forms over the years, but John's five and a half minute reading of the tale is definitive. John's unique syncopated finger-picking style of guitar playing is evident throughout, and we can especially enjoy track three, ‘Stocktime’, which is a lovely lilting instrumental until a brief vocal near the end. John's playing is generally acknowledged as one of the key factors in the development of the John Fahey school of guitar players who were soon to emerge. His playing is generally solo, though on two tracks, ‘Moaning The Blues’ and ‘Monday Morning Blues’, here he is joined by production supervisor Patrick Sky on second guitar.
There are times when the prettiness and delicacy of Hurt's guitar belie the subject matter of the songs, such as on the angst in the story of ‘Hop Joint’, the traditional 'Woke up this morning...' resignation of Monday Morning Blues or the whiskey-related ‘I've Got The Blues And I Can't Be Satisfied’. On all these John deals with the hurt in the songs in a style that suggests that the man is actually relaxed and happy with his lot. The inclusion of the gentle humour of ‘The Chicken’ further underlines this. The whole package supports the Immortal tag of its title in no uncertain terms. Although the world no longer has the man, we can continue to rejoice in his music.