"When his mother and I arrived at the hospital in Mexico City, he was in a drug induced state," Wurster relates. "Over the next several days, he was operated on a half a dozen times as they pieced him back together. The best doctors in Mexico worked on him and did a miraculous job. He would endure several more operations, before being flown by air ambulance to Miami Jackson. He was there for one week, and endured a few more surgeries. He then came home, and was bedridden for the better part of the next year, as his bodily slowly healed. During that time, we acquired a digital recording program and he went to work learning how to record and mix music. At the end of his recovery, we recorded an old Black Janet song, "Masters of Deception."
That was to be the start of a collaboration that wouldn't be fully realized for another six years. After Berning returned to college in Orlando, he formed a group he dubbed SkyRider and inked a deal with a local label, Endemik Records. Consisting mainly of atmospheric instrumentals, the resulting album, entitled 47:34, took its cue from Berning's tragic mishap, a dark series of soundscapes that reflected those tumultuous days and weeks as he struggled through his recovery. The sole exception was Berning and Wurster's recording of "Masters of Deception," which Endemik opted to release as a vinyl single.
The song garnered a decent buzz in Europe and respectable airplay on college radio in the States. SkyRider to the road as a backing band for a hip-hop act named Sole, but was then offered the opportunity to record an album for the Connecticut-based Fake Four label after its owner heard the "Masters of Deception" single and suggested they follow up with a set of similar material.
According to the Fake Four Facebook page, Wurster remained the impetus for Berning - who's now become synonymous with SkyRider - to find new life through his music. "Jim Wurster bailed SkyRider out of jail, amongst other things," its narrative begins. "Some even say Jim Wurster himself pulled SkyRider from the mangled wreckage of that near-fatal accident in Mexico which left SkyRider in a ten day coma, but that's the stuff legends are made of.
One thing is for certain, when Bud Berning made his solo debut as SkyRider, deep in the swamps of Florida, he called upon Jim Wurster to bring out that old guitar he swore he'd never play again. He asked Jim to re-record his Reagan Era critique piece "Masters of Deception", a song that spoke so powerfully to Berning - as it was just as befitting in of the times of the Bush Era - that he featured it as the only fully worded song on the instrumental album, 47:34, a haunting glimpse into the shattered mind of one trapped by the succubus arms of a coma."
It's an apt description for an album that's as tortured and tumultuous as the scenario that preceded it. With a full band in tow - Wurster on vocals and guitar, Berning on bass, guitar, keyboard, and percussion, William Ryan Fritch playing a multitude of other instruments and John Wagner on drums - the resulting effort, Hired Hand, combines dense psychedelic undertones with Wurster's ominous invocations. Songs such as "Cold Wind," "Dark Skies" and "Suicide Soliloquy" maximize the foreboding manifest in those titles with a dire despair reminiscent of Nick Cave, Johnny Cash or Leonard Cohen at his most morose. And yet, its also an inspiring record, one that finds redemption in its beautiful coda, "There's a Reward" as well as its otherwise upbeat intro, "Queen of My Heart."
An ideal record for today's uncertain times, Hired Hand
reminds us that revelation and inspiration can be found in even the worst of circumstance.