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Jan 22, 2024 - 8:23:12 PM
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4391 posts since 12/3/2008

Adam Hurt's inclusion of three gourd banjo tunes at a concert in 2009, led to the recording of "Earth Tones," Adam's solo gourd banjo album. In the fourteen years since its release "Earth Tones" continues to reverberate globally as a groundbreaking artistic achievement. The videos from that concert of Adam Hurt playing John Riley the Shepherd and Brushy Fork of John's Creek, were uploaded 14 years ago. Less well-known is the video of Adam playing Jack Wilson on gourd banjo (from the same concert), which was uploaded 4 years ago. Here are the three gourd banjo videos, seminal milestones in the cultural history of clawhammer banjo, leading to the birth of one of the greatest solo clawhammer albums of all-time, "Earth Tones."

Edited by - Paul Roberts on 01/22/2024 20:24:02

Jan 23, 2024 - 4:47:26 PM
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Lew H

USA

2949 posts since 3/10/2008

I was at Suwannee Banjo Camp when Hurt performed with that gourd banjo. He is a master of tone and technique on fretless gourd or fretted banjo.

Jan 24, 2024 - 9:57:18 PM

7127 posts since 6/27/2009

Adam has inspired a multitude of players to learn the tunes on Earth Tones and to build or acquire similar gourd banjos. Thanks for sharing these memorable tunes, Paul. Even the CD title richly resonates.

Feb 16, 2024 - 6:59:11 PM
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4391 posts since 12/3/2008

“Earth Tones” review by Carla Roberts (2010)

I’ll begin with my conclusion – this new “Earth Tones” CD by Adam Hurt is sonically fulfilling from the first to the last ringing note, and if you are an early/traditional banjo enthusiast, it will be an unusually rare treasure to have in your collection. It is unabashed banjo poetry.

Some say the earth is a living being, and if so, the gourd banjo could easily be the earth’s voice. It’s intimate, organic sound evokes the simple pleasures of life on earth – music from the heart and soul of the fertile land. The soft, alluring, tone coaxed out of a humble gourd instrument is a great antidote to the hustle and bustle of modern times. It gracefully reminds us of the tremendous pleasures and hardships of a rural life that our ancestors lived to birth us into the present. “Earth Tones” creates a living link to that past, an introduction to the ancient mysteries of the banjo.

I once saw a group of impressively robed Nigerian musicians including a gourd banjo player who sedately shuffled to the group’s subtle African rhythms. Distantly related, the opening cut on Earth Tones, entitled “Fortune”, is a jubilant clarion call announcing to the world that the gourd banjo is a groovilicious dancer on the stage of life. It makes me want to do the “dust raising kicking up the bread dough gourd banjo hip hop chicken dance – or something likes it.

Adam’s full and rich articulation joyously shines through on “Fortune”, giving the banjo a delicate voicing that is surprisingly expressive. I had once played this particular David Hyatt banjo and the first thing I noticed was the difficulty in attaining a precise articulation because of the “give” of the strings and the throatier voice. Adam has mastered this instrument, taming the buttery, wavering tone and bringing it alive with his superb technique.

Track 2 – “Black Jack Grove” shows off the well-rounded lute like tone. You can almost feel the fingers caressing the strings; the tone is so alive and technically ambitious. For many years I have grown gourds in my garden patch. The pale green vines grow vigorously, exploding over the garden, even climbing over any fences or barriers and finally producing multitudes of lovely white flowers which attract enough insects to pollinate and then produce translucent pale green fruits. If the gourd plants are so alive, then too is this earthly banjo blues, which says, “This is where I will coax the earth to produce its bounty”.

On “Stillhouse” (track 3) I can imagine the first spattering raindrops hitting the parched earth after a long summer drought. It is a slow paced, earth drenched tone, comforting and homey, a laid-back and solitary sweet shuffle.

“Indian Nation” (track 5) has some fanciful finger work that is deceptively simple and a voicing that dips down into the bassier range.

A featured instrument in Asian music is a harp like zither (called the cheng in China)
It has the ability to bend notes, sliding up or down towards the nearest note and also a quavering, ethereal vibrato. “Flannery’s Dream” (track 6) sounds amazingly like my Chinese cheng with it’s deep bass lows and sweet slides into the higher range and then back down into a bluesy, bassy groove.

For an upbeat flavor with rhythmic wrangling and frailing, try “Jack Wilson” (track 7)
The insistent 5th string drone supports a lively melodic theme that begs the question, where has this song been? How many hands have played it and who shaped it?

“Fire on the Mountain” (track 8) is filled with well-rounded flourishes and a jump for joy sensibility that reminds me of fauns cavorting and leaping about just for the fun of it.

Richly guitar-like in a Carter family way, “The Wandering Boy” (Track 9) is sitting on the old couch on the porch after a hard and hot day’s work cutting hay – the strumming soul of a hardworking homesteader finally taking a rest and surveying the day’s accomplishments.

The delightfully syncopated version of “Rye Straw” (track 11) is an intriguing conversation. I imagine it to be what the banjo would sound like if it were talking to itself when humans were not around. Each string trying to make a point or grab the attention until the next starts talking back, call and response.

Finally the pairing of “John Riley the Shepherd and Brushy Fork of John’s Creek”
starts out pensive and plaintive, a “tell it like it is” blues that morphs into high octane playing for a grand finale of these groovilicious gourd banjo wanderings, the solo gourd banjo of Adam Hurt on “Earth Tones”.

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