For a listener of any age, dipping into the waters of Michael Hurley can seem daunting. Like a pimple-faced kid on the precipice of Dylan and Townes, Cash or Hazlewood – there are so many eras to cover, so many iterations to contend with and, in Hurley’s specific case, so many inside winks to be lost among that it’s easy to feel like you’re on the outside listening in. In that regard Feeding Tube’s latest collection is an excellently inviting, though by no means definitive entry point. The record documents Hurley’s first European jaunt, embarked upon in 1995 between his albums Wolfways and Parsnip Snips. The tour would take Hurley through Germany and on into Slovenia, where Living Ljubljana would be laid to tape at KLUB K4.
Its not an imposing set – its tight, short, and in deference to some of the other greats up there (Van Zandt and Cash) its spartan in its approach to dialogue and banter. The band that Hurley brings with him is spare, but effective. His records were never overly fussy or showy and often found their grace in the kind of warm, “in the room” feeling that makes them seem less like set pieces for songwriting and more like postcards from a friend. The live set captures the same feeling, with Robert Michener and Mickey Bones pushing Hurley along a track of amiable warmth and inclusive vibes.
The tracklist centers on his mid-nineties period primarily, culling from some merchtable specific cassette releases that don’t pop up that often and the just released Wolfways. Though, for the Hurley traveler and neophyte alike, the set reaches a few years earlier into Watertower and even back to classics from his ‘70s days on Raccoon and Rounder. They round the set of hearthwarmers out with a couple of cover tunes that fit snug into the seams of a carefully curated bunch. If this is the twentieth or so Hurley platter to grace your collection, if you’ve got those merchtable cassettes dusted and dangling on the shelf then Ljubljana will hit you right with a feeling of coming home. If, however, you’re not all that familiar. If you’re scratching your head at what praytell a Snock is and scanning through color blasted cover art with a quizzical grin, then this is just as nice a perch to land on. Its that rare live record that doesn’t feel so much like a souvenir, more like an invitation in. Probably no better place to enter the maze than right here.
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