Michael Hurley | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Michael Hurley is one of America's few genuine oddball geniuses, a ragtag troubadour who delivers weird bits of wisdom nonchalantly, as cranky afterthoughts. Deliriously eclectic, he's a folkie only by default: ignoring stylistic purity, he'll amble from a lazy blues to some raw old-timey tune without pause. He favors acoustic guitar--though he also plays banjo, fiddle, and piano--and ranges from charming, simple down-home songs to knee-slapping funny ones to gorgeous, touching ballads. But his quirky personality, unassuming tunefulness, and indescribable vision are what really attract his often befuddled audiences. Over a period of nearly 30 years he's released only nine albums--he's the antithesis of a careerist, not only shy but a bit of a curmudgeon. This Chicago gig, his first in a few years, is largely the responsibility of local bluegrass weirdos the Dysfunctionells; they'll open as well as join Hurley on a number of songs, as they did last summer with former Hurley associate Peter Stampfel. In fact the 1976 Have Moicy! (Rounder), the classic Hurley collaboration with Stampfel, is the source of a number of Hurley's best-known numbers, including the hilarious paean to everyday gastronomic pleasures, "Slurf Song." No one can predict how a Hurley gig will turn out--when he last played here he was particularly off-the-cuff, banging out old blues and pop tunes on the piano--but he's a smart gamble. Sunday, 8 PM, Lunar Cabaret & Full Moon Cafe, 2827 N. Lincoln; 327-6666.

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