It must be daunting to do a tribute album to Mississippi John Hurt. His intricate finger-picking style, wistful delivery and Cinderella career make him a unique character in music. Hurt recorded a few sides in the late '20s, then headed home to Mississippi, only to be rediscovered in 1963 by two blues historians and immediately idolized by a burgeoning American folk scene.
"Avalon Blues" features some big names in the folk/alt-country scene: Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle, Ben Harper, Gillian Welch, John Hiatt and even Beck doing inspired covers of well-known Hurt tunes like "Avalon," "My Home Town" and "Candy Man." The arrangements are low-key and all the performances here are good. But it's Harper's graceful "Sliding Delta" that comes closest to capturing Hurt's gentle effervescence -- a quality that made him one of the greatest, and most grateful, blues figures in history.