Michael Hurwitz & the Aimless Drifters
Chrome on the Range
[Meadowlark Records (2010)]
If you haven’t met him already, meet Michael Hurwitz. He’s a fourth-generation Wyoming rancher whose singer-songwriter prowess is major league, yet he prefers to fly under the radar. As the tongue-in-cheek title Chrome on the Range implies, Hurwitz’s vision of the west is real, well worn and lived in, not a faux, fabricated image envisioned by those Johnny-come-lately posers. His magnetizing story songs (“Edith,” “Ed Trafton”) come from hours of meticulous research and often leave a piece of the puzzle for the listener to figure out. Some are composite sketches, like “Poor Cowboy” who languishes in solitude; others are loaded with high-res imagery of hardscrabble, rural Wyoming life (“Your Dancin’ Shoes”) that requires endurance and celebration.
There are a few that involve clever word plays, the best example being the jovial “Out of the Frying Pan”: A preacher convinces a derelict to join the Sunday church band, hence the ingenious catch phrase “Out of the frying pan and into the choir.” “Real Live Buckaroo” by guest/contemporary Gary McMahan is undoubtedly the ripsnorting funniest, good ole boys ‘fueled by beans and nicotine’ as McMahon’s cartoonish voice banters back and forth with Hurwitz’ drawly, talking vocals.
Hurwitz’s songs have a certain candor that, during the course of the proceedings, make you feel as if you’ve met him before. He’s not afraid to introduce the family, a Southern mother who danced to the blues (“Minnie Sang The Blues”), a daredevil-flying uncle (“Uncle Lucky”), and a young son full of rambunctious energy (“He’s a Rodeo”). Backing up Hurwitz is his formidable Aimless Drifters squadron who ensures that another two-step is always close by. Surprisingly, Tracy Nelson of Mother Earth fame guests on two tracks. What’s not to like? [www.mikehurwitz.com]
—Dan Willging (Denver, CO)
[edit: corrected the artist’s website link.]