Backstage: Jim Wurster's Favorite Albums of All Time

Music vet and New Times scribe Lee Zimmerman shares stories of memorable rock 'n' roll encounters that took place in our local environs. This week: South Florida's foremost roots rock troubadour shares his top five all-time classics... 

Jim Wurster may be South Florida's very own god of Americana. After ten albums (including his critically acclaimed latest, Straight to Me), extensive work with his band the Atomic Cowboys, a slew of critical kudos both locally and nationally, and comparisons to such roots-rock standard-bearers as John Prine, Steve Earle, Hank Williams, and Kris Kristofferson, Wurster has carved his niche as a no-nonsense troubadour with a deliberate sense of drive and determination. He often looks at the world through clouded lenses, unafraid to cast a disparaging view of political perversion or decaying relationships, but somehow his music manages to come across as uplifting and inspiring. He began his musical journey -- at least formally, that is -- at the helm of Black Janet, and while that band's atmospheric imagery has largely been excised from his work, Wurster remains as compelling as ever, a musician whose every effort is eagerly anticipated.

Recently, Wurster joined forces with Hired Hand, a band that possesses a similar sensibility. The trio -- William Ryan Fritch, John Wagner, and Bud Berning -- has recruited Wurster for a full album that's due for imminent release. Although we're unsure of what exactly the collaboration will yield, we thought it might be a good time to retrace Wurster's roots and ask him to offer a sampling of some of those albums that contributed to his earliest influences. Here's what he had to say: 

Johnny Rivers at the Whiskey a Go Go -- Johnny Rivers: "Over the years, I have probably collected over 5,000 albums, and this was one of the first. It was Johnny who introduced me to the music of Chuck Berry, Rufus Thomas, and Willie Dixon." 

Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere -- Neil Young: "'Cowgirl in the Sand' was the first song I learned to play that had more than three chords. Today, it is still the only song that I play that has more than three chords." 

Blue River -- Eric Andersen: "Warm, dark, and beautiful. Joni Mitchell's background vocal on the title cut is haunting. A great late-night listen." 

Heart Like a Wheel -- Linda Rondstadt: "I had a big crush on Linda. What a voice! Every track is a gem. Masterful song arrangements and playing by the late Andrew Gold." 

The Clash Live at Shea Stadium -- The Clash: "They just recently released this from the vaults. A great live album. God bless Joe Strummer. He was the man." 

Jim Wurster performs at 8 p.m. Friday, October 7, at Luna Star Café, 75, NE 125th St., Miami. Josh Little opens. Call 305-799-7123, or visit [email protected].

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Lee Zimmerman