When I was 13 or 14, maybe, my mom drove me to the local record store so I could blow my birthday money on some jazz records. I’d hardly ever heard any jazz, outside some of my grandfather’s big band swing—Basie and Goodman, though, curiously, I don’t remember there being any Duke—but I was weirdly and unexplainably obsessed with the idea of jazz. I came home that day with Kind of Blue, A Love Supreme, Time Out, Art Blakey’s Moanin’, and, for some reason, Lee Morgan’s The Sidewinder—which is a classic, but not necessarily one I’d recommend for your first five jazz albums. (It’s not even the best Lee Morgan. Cornbread.)
Listening to those albums for the first time, I didn’t have the technical vocabulary to explain what they were doing, and frankly still don’t—but I know what they did to me, how they made me feel. Kind of Blue and A Love Supreme were the ones that made the biggest and most immediate impact on me: I intuitively grasped that, though they employed similar vocabularies, they changed the weather in my room in totally different ways, the Miles album easygoing and cool, Coltrane’s white-hot with intensity and spiritual fervor.
I remain ever open to seduction by a great record, eager to have the weather in my room changed by song. I have been writing about records in a professional capacity since 2000, and I do it as an act of discovery: A way to play with records, to grow with them, to experience them not just as a consumer but as someone who is, even in a small way, deeply engaged in the mysteries of the process.
I sort of tried to retire from this business in 2012, as my first son was about to be born and I felt like this was a funny line of work for a grown many with responsibilities—but I couldn’t keep away for long, and set up this blog as an avenue for occasional explorations of great records.
This is important to me. I measure and cherish my life through records. I have so many vivid musical memories: Road trips with my wife, usually with Ray Charles or Prince playing. Putting on Bill Evans’ Portrait in Jazz in the hospital when my son Henry was born, Bob Dylan for my son Dylan. (No coincidence.) I remember being transfixed when I first saw Gillian Welch on stage, charmed to smithereens by Nick Lowe, staggered by Elvis Costello and his Spinning Songbook.
I write about music that moves me in some way; I do this out of passion and don’t have much interest in writing about boring records, with some infrequent exceptions. I write mostly about newer records, though my listening encompasses the 1920s through the present. I like records that seduce me and don’t necessarily care about genre, though I suppose a lot of what I like could be classified as jazz, hip-hop, country, blues, soul, funk, rock and roll, singer/songwriter, and R&B. (I consider all of this to be folk music.) Simply as a matter of personal preference, I generally don’t care for electronic music or metal and I don’t know a thing about classical music outside of what’s in Amadeus, but I am ever ready to be convinced and converted.
On a personal front: I have written about music for Christianity Today, Relevant, Stereo Subversion, IMAGE, In Review Online, and Kicking the Canon. I was a professional film critic for seven years, and also write some stuff about books and TV for FLOOD Magazine. I write capsule reviews for iTunes and curate playlists for Apple Music, which is my household’s second biggest source of income; the biggest is my work as a writer, editor, and strategist for Grammar Chic, Inc., a marketing and all-purpose copywriting team. I live in Rock Hill, South Carolina with my wife Kati and our two boys. I read a lot.
I hope some of these reviews and recommendations help you find your way into a record that changes the weather in your room. But if not, and you want your money back, you can find me on Twitter @joshhurst or you can e-mail me.
P.S.—People are always asking what my all-time favorite records are. I have an annual Top 100 list that you can read, or just get the top ten:
Joe Henry, Tiny Voices
Bob Dylan & The Band, The Basement Tapes
Miles Davis, Kind of Blue
Rod Stewart, Every Picture Tells a Story
Ray Charles, The Birth of Soul
Prince, Purple Rain
Van Morrison, Astral Weeks
Charles Mingus, Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus
Duke Ellington, Money Jungle
Nina Simone, Sings the Blues
My favorite song is Joe Henry’s “Parker’s Mood,” though I have asked that Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” be played at my funeral.