In 1972 the late guitarist John Hulburt, then based in Chicago, self-released his sole album. Decades later a copy was plucked from a Windy City record bin by Ryley Walker, the contents so impressing Hulburt’s fellow string slinger that he partnered with Tompkins Square’s Josh Rosenthal to produce its reissue. Featuring 20 tracks of nimble fingerpicking and a demeanor suggesting Berkeley or Greenwich Village in the heart of the 1960s, Opus III is available now on LP/CD/digital.
Opus III is John Hulburt’s lone full-length (there is no Opus I or II), but it wasn’t the extent of his studio experience; roughly five years earlier he was a part of Chicago garage act The Knaves. Managing a pair of singles in ’67 for the Dunwich label, their complete recordings were recently compiled by Sundazed on the 10-inch “Leave Me Alone!”
Unlike their Chi-town garage cohorts The Shadows of Knight (who also recorded for Dunwich), The New Colony Six and The Cryan’ Shames, The Knaves lacked any national chart action and apparently weren’t even particularly popular locally. This shouldn’t insinuate a lack of quality; described by Knave’s member Gene Lubin in Opus III’s notes as “punk/rock,” The Knaves could distill the Stones and Pretty Things with adequate flair but were actually quite adept at crafting surprisingly durable folk-rock ditties with ample and smartly rendered harmonies.
Lubin relates that Hulburt was brought into the Knaves’ fold to sing and shake a tambourine. Within a year he was adding guitar to the band’s 45s, and by 1972 it was his primary instrument; issued on Hulburt’s own Clarence imprint, Opus III was an early engineering credit for Barry Mraz (Styx, Ohio Players, David Johansen, Fotomaker etc).