Guitar Wizard Jim Hurst to appear in Harrisburg November 2nd

Two-time International Bluegrass Music Association “Guitarist of the Year” award winner Jim Hurst brings his impeccable, intricate guitar stylings to Harrisburg for a Saturday, November 2, 2013, Susquehanna Folk Music Society concert at 7:30 p.m. at the Fort Hunter Centennial Barn, 5300 N. Front Street, Harrisburg. The concert will be preceded by a free 6 p.m. potluck dinner. Information and tickets:

I caught up with guitar wizard Jim Hurst recently and had a chat with him about his guitar technique, his new CD and the decision to embark on a solo career.

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Folk Mama: I’ve e really not paid enough attention to what a guitarist does with their right hand.  I noticed in your bio that you use a combination of finger picks and a flat pick. I’m curious how you decide which picking style to use.

Hurst: Well I try to incorporate the techniques with my right hand that give me value behind the song–the lyrics, and the melodies. Essentially, I pay attention to the grove or the gentile nature of the song. There are times in my shows where I do a medley of sorts where I flatpick and sometimes where I finger style. And when I do flatpick I go through all the heroes like Toney Rice, Doc Watson, Clarence White or Mother Maybelle Carter. On the fingerstyle side it’s mostly Merle Travis, Chet Akins, Jerry Reid and folks like that. So I do a combination of different things. And sometimes I go natural so there are no picks anywhere. I use the technique that best enhances the song.

Folk Mama: I understand that you do a lot of teaching and have taught guitar at several camps. Where have you taught and what kinds of classes do you usually teach?

Hurst: I’ve gotten to teach at a lot of camps. This year for the first time I taught at Swannanoa Gathering out in North Carolina. I’ve taught at the Puget Sound Guitar Workshop out near Seattle, Washington and different camps teaching bluegrass style. I’ve been a guitar instructor for flat picking as well as fingerstyle. I’ve been a vocal instructor for bluegrass harmony vocals and I’ve also done some band coaching.

Folk Mama: So I see that you have played with Claire Lynch and with Missy Raines. Can you give us a little background?

Hurst: I’ve worked mostly with women in my career. My first job since I moved to Nashville was with Holly Dunn and I also worked with Trisha Yearwood and Sara Evans. I worked for Claire Lynch for 15 years as part of two of her bands—the Front Porch String Band with her husband and then later with the Claire Lynch Band. Missy Raines joined the band in May of 1995 and Missy and I played together in Claire’s band. After the Front Porch String Band split up  and before we started in the Claire Lynch Band, Missy and I started playing as a duet, which we continued doing for quite a few years.

Folk Mama: So now you are working solo. How did that come about?

Hurst: Well the solo thing is probably not the first thing that people in the bluegrass community would expect. I’ve always been a music lover and bluegrass is one of my loves but I grew up near Detroit, so Motown, rock and roll, the Beatles and Elvis—all these people were influences on me too.

Being in ensembles—especially as a hired sideman– you are doing the reckoning and the artwork of someone else’s desires and creation. Then as time goes on the musician inside of you, the creative person inside is never, truly fulfilled. So for me I was working in all these great bands, but the kind of thing that I wanted to do didn’t fit the environments that I was in. So in 2009 I felt the need to challenge myself to do my own kind of music, at the ripe young age of 56. And I feel like a young upstart because no one knows who I am for the most part because I’ve always been part of a group.

So it’s been a wonderful opportunity for me to kind of develop the art that I hear. My most recent CD “Intrepid” came on February of last year and it’s gotten a lot of support with on independent, internet and satellite radio. Last year at IBMAs [International Bluegrass Music Association] bluegrass convention in Nashville I think I was the first solo act to ever get an official showcase.

I was also nominated again for the “Guitar Play of the Year” Award, which was the first time that I was selected as a finalist since doing the solo thing. And that’s not an easy thing, because the bluegrass community loves a bluegrass band with a banjo and a fiddle and a mandolin, and for me to get nominated with just my guitar and a voice and be recognized by my bluegrass peers is a huge thing for me.

Folkmama: I’m curious about the title of your new CD “Intrepid”.  It doesn’t take its name from any of the songs on the CD. Does the title refer to the leap of faith that you’ve had to make going solo?

Hurst: I like to title my albums so that the name conveys something about the album.  “Open Window” my first CD from 1998 was a look into the music of who I am, and then “Second Son” because I am the second of three brothers, and “Box of Chocolates” had a lot of variety in it, and I’m a big chocolate fan.

I looked around to try to find a good title for this and I came up with the idea of “Intrepid” and I asked some friends and they thought it was perfect because it takes a lot of courage, especially in the bluegrass community to go off on your own because you are taking a chance on hurting yourself financially and creatively and maybe going places where people don’t expect you to go.

Folkmama:  Anything I missed?

Hurst: There is a lot of music that I do that is bluegrass friendly, but when I do it solo, it’s more like a songer-songwriter version. I also choose my set list based on who I think is in the audience.

I think there are some “bluegrassers” who don’t want to hear folk, and some “folkers” who don’t want to hear bluegrass, but I think I’m bridging the gap.

I would encourage anyone who has never seen me live to come and hear my music and to come out and support the Susquehanna Folk Music Society series. It’s a wonderful series and I really appreciate being part of it!


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