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O’Hurley’s General Store celebrates CD release, ‘O’Hurley’s Thursday Night Jam’

By Staff | Jan 31, 2020

O'Hurley's General Store owner Jay O'Hurley talks about the first CD produced by the store's Thursday night jam sessions, during the release party on Jan. 23. Tabitha Johnston

SHEPHERDSTOWN — For 40 years, O’Hurley’s General Store has been bringing traditional music to Shepherdstown every Thursday night, during its weekly jam session. But none of that music had ever been professionally recorded until last year, when over the course of three jam sessions music was recorded for the session’s first CD.

The CD was recorded by Hazy Roads Studio Productions and produced by shop employee Debbie Halverson, who worked as a musician in Nashville, Tenn. for many years. “O’Hurley’s Thursday Night Jam” was finished earlier this month, and so, on Jan. 23, the weekly jam session served as a joint CD release party.

“Tonight is the CD release party,” store owner Jay Hurley said. “The CD is very good. Now, because I’m on it and because I worked at it, of course I’m going to say it. But we spent a great deal of time on it, to make it sound professional.

“It was all recorded in the Great Hall live, and then it was edited in the studio to take out any background noise or bugs. But you can still hear the audience noise, like their applause. We amplified and embraced that,” O’Hurley said, mentioning retaining the distinct sound of the jam sessions is what makes the CD unique.

Although the majority of the CD features copyright-free, traditional music, three of the CD’s songs are originals, written by two members of the jam session, Sam Rizzetta and Jay Unger. One of Rizzetta’s songs, “More Pie,” inspired O’Hurley to serve pie as the highlight of the release party. The song has a sound similar to most of the other tunes performed at O’Hurley’s, but it has one distinguishing feature.

Becky Lidgerding, a flutist whose playing can be heard on the CD, selects a piece of cherry pie to eat, during the CD release party on Jan. 23. Tabitha Johnston

“It’s in the key of ‘F,’ which is the food key. It’s never wrong to yell out, ‘More pie!’ at any point in the song,” Rizzetta said, as the musicians at the session prepared to play the song.

For Becky Lidgerding, who plays the flute and fiddle on the album, the recording process was rewarding.

“It was a great experience, especially to hear how it all turned out. It sounds so professional, but it wasn’t orchestrated at all — it’s what we do at the jam sessions every week,” Lidgerding said. “I think I’ve been coming to the jam sessions for 30 years, back when we played in the front room, before Jay built the Great Hall. Back then, we were very small and had six musicians.”

The musicians on the CD were only a handful of the many musicians who come to play in the sessions. Even so, 11 musicians can be heard performing on the CD: John Bryant on the bass viol; Charlie Casabona on the fiddle, banjo, mandolin and vocals; Halverson on the washboard and vocals; Steve Hartman on the guitar and vocals; Jeff Hornbeck on the mandolin and mandola; Hurley on the hammered dulcimer, bodhran and vocals; Lidgerding; Genevieve O’Loughlin on the harp, fiddle and wood block; Rizzetta on the hammered dulcimer; Steve Smith on the autoharp; and Jeff Whitten on the guitar.

“I started coming here in 2000, almost 20 years ago, when I first moved to the area,” Casabona said. “Many people have asked to have a recording of our jam sessions over the years.”

Jay Hurley shows off his hand-signed CD, "O'Hurley's Thursday Night Jam," on Jan. 23. Tabitha Johnston

“O’Hurley’s Thursday Night Jam” is currently available for purchase at the store.