Daily Download: "Louis Collins," Mississippi John Hurt, from the 1928 Ok

"Louis Collins"

By Salon Staff
Published February 16, 2005 8:01AM (EST)

Although Mississippi John Hurt's music fit right into the '60s folk revival that rediscovered him, the 36-year-old farmworker was something of an anomaly when he recorded this song in 1928. His guitar never wept or moaned or stabbed or scratched, and neither did his voice: With Hurt, all was smooth, mellifluous, retiring. He played the guitar with a delicate sense of the rich, orchestral possibilities of ringing, open harmonies, and with a fluidity and resonance quite unlike any other guitar player at the time. "Louis Collins" is a murder ballad, but a particularly oblique one, dwelling on the sorrow of the murdered man's mother, not the event itself. The melody is improbably upbeat, and sung in Hurt's imperturbably gentle voice, a voice that knows no violence, the song becomes an elegiac fairy tale, far removed from any real tragedy.

Salon Staff

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