Michael Hurdle and Paul Anderson combine their talents to create a new sort of folk jazz. Songs like the original “Gypsy Joe” and “Scotland the Brave/Auld Lang Syne” demonstrate the musical traditions of Texas and Scotland through Hurdle’s guitar and Anderson’s fiddle.
Michael Hurdle and Paul Anderson: An unusual pairing
Michael Hurdle’s love of music began in the 1960s when he was given his first guitar. Forays into worship music and Beatles’ covers marked his youth. However, real-life beckoned, and Hurdle began a career in healthcare. His love for music never wavered, and Hurdle began to hone his craft as a songwriter and his expertise in guitar playing.
Settling in Houston after moving to several U.S. cities, Hurdle began entering and winning songwriting contests in the Houston area. The success of his recording project, “Signature Sounds,” led to some corporations adopting the songs as theme music.
Paul Anderson, though younger than Hurdle, also has a lifetime of musical achievement on which to draw for the current project. Now in his 40s, Anderson has composed music for Scottish television, performed for Prince Charles, and won numerous fiddling contests. In addition, he is a regular on Scottish television. One of his stints includes reciting the works of poet Robert Burns onscreen.
It is not clear when in their careers Hurdle and Anderson met, but their paths crossed and the result is the CD, “Highlands & Houston.”
Michael Hurdle and Paul Anderson: “Gypsy Joe”
The sound of this piece is startling because neither the title nor the backgrounds of the performers prepare listeners for a Latin folk sound. Bass guitar, played by Rock Romano, gives the sound depth and edge that is missing on the duo’s lighter tunes.
The guitar work is deft and bright. It is as if every note can be heard. The overall spirit of the piece reminds listeners of a what a carefree character “Gypsy Joe” might be.
The fiddle work is overwhelmed by the bass, guitar, and percussion. The percussion is smooth and natural—listeners know that it’s there, but it is seamless, as if it constitutes the breaths of the song. The percussion is performed by Al White.
“Scotland the Brave/Auld Lang Syne”: The ultimate Hurdle and Anderson
Bagpipes get a resonant and throaty introduction via bass guitar, played by David Craig. At least that’s what it sounds like. If the bagpipes sound like that, then I am sorely misjudging the instrument. The opening is “Scotland the Brave,” which leads into Braxton Edwards’ singing “Auld Lang Syne.”
Honestly, I wanted more of that bagpipe and bass mix. The bagpipes alone, however, do a great deal to elicit emotional responses from audiences. No matter the context in which they are played, the instrument sounds solemn and a bit lonely, its only goal to deliver its message. In short, this is the kind of music I expected more of when I read of Hurdle’s and Anderson’s combined work.
The album overall provides pretty music. The vocals (Elisha Jordan sings as well), are well-articulated, and the instrumentation is intricate and emotional, without being stiff. The most significant detraction is that the work here resists a genre label. I know that in terms of artistic expression, most work should. However, the benefit of a genre label is that audiences have a starting point for understanding presented themes, and appreciating evidence of musical traditions they might hear.
The album “Highlands & Houston” is a great recording for audiences looking to appreciate quiet music for its own sake.