Some mountains inspire soaring verses like ‘Rocky Mountain High’. Other chains, not so much. The Adirondacks may anchor the ‘not so much’ category. For some of us, their rugged beauty does not compensate for their two longest seasons: arctic and black fly/mosquito.
Roy Hurd is the only performer I know of who advertises himself as an ‘Adirondack folk singer’. It may be that huddling by ever-insufficient woodstoves for eight months and hoping the DEET and screening work for three months produces more stories than music. But Hurd, who played Caffe Lena in Saratoga Springs, NY, on June 26 wove anecdote, lyrics and skilled guitar playing into a delightful two-hour performance.
Whether singing about his forbears and their land, or a vacationing couple trapped in a tent with three kids during a rainy stretch in black fly season, or his attraction to ‘crazy women’, Hurd has a novel perspective and a deep affection for people and the land. His stories between songs don’t lend themselves to stone faced reactions. His songs which ranged from rockabilly to country to folk varied so much in tempo the audience could not possibly fall into a lull.
Whatever Hurd’s taste in ‘crazy women’, his back up vocalist and daughter, Meadow Merry, seemed as sane as she is talented. Her harmonies gave her father’s lyrics a nice highlight. She added an appropriately deflating child-like commentary to her father’s musings.
Also backing Hurd was Frank Orsini, an extraordinary fiddle and mandolin player. It isn’t often a sideman can put novel twists into chestnuts like ‘The Orange Blossom Special’ and ‘I’ve Been Everywhere’. Nor is it often when you can’t take your eyes off a backup musician who is as deliberately unshowy.
‘Generous’ keeps popping into my mind when I think about this show. If he is nothing else in his writing and performing, Roy Hurd is generous to his subjects, his audience and his fellow performers. When people lept to their feet at the concert’s close, it was unfeigned. His four-song encore was one nobody wanted to end.