A tribute to Country Lore originally told by a One-Man-Band
“John connected not just words to music, but the old days of Nashville to its present, tradition to innovation, new grass to bluegrass to old-time, television to radio, river to shore, aging musicians to hippies.”
In his lifetime, John Hartford was a multi-Grammy winner who recorded more than 30 bluegrass, country and folk albums. Hartford was known for his masterful banjo and fiddle playing, clever lyrics and Mississippi River folktales. This musical legend was a one-man band, playing multiple instruments, such as guitar, banjo, fiddle and clog danced on plywood sheets filled with sand and gravel, all while singing and playing. In 2001, at the age of 63, Hartford died of lymphoma, which he struggled with for 20 years. Thus, 2020 brings a collection of modern-day musicians and singers covering his classic songs as a beautiful Americana tribute.
Sam Bush covers “On the Road” with a solo banjo introduction that brings the listener into a country traveler mindset. The banjo never settles for a second, but merely accompanies Bush and back-up singers harmonizing. “Battle in the Goodle Days” is remastered by Fruition and begins with a cool, mellow, half-country and half-tropical guitar riff. Once the singing kicks in, Fruition’s country twang is not shy but exemplifies the overall mood of sitting under a tree, escaping the summer sun to reminisce about the glory days.
The Infamous Stringdusters pays tribute in the famous song, “Gentle on My Mind.” The Infamous Stringdusters’ rendition is a quick-paced, upbeat track with a country mumbling singing style. The fiddle steals the show as it creates an elevated space within the song in each small solo. “No End of Love” performed by the Travelin’ McCourys is a romantic, Western twang track that serenades a lover by saying that he wants to experience everything they have experienced. He vows to “Love you like there was no end of love.”
“Delta Queen Waltz” by the Railroad Earth is a smooth, vintage-style ballroom waltz with wistful lyrics of the evening two lovers spent along the shoreline in St. Louis, dancing to the Delta Queen Waltz. This track is a passionately, dreamy ballad. “Waugh Paugh” by The High Hawks is a suave, jazzy track that opens with quick hand-claps and foot-stomps as the percussion. There are layers of new sounds brought in as the song elaborates, such as piano, howling and harmonies. This song shows the goofier side of John Hartford, for these lyrics tell a tall-tale and are filled with silly noises inserted here and there (Whoop-Whoop-Ha-Do!).
Horseshoes & Hand Grenades covers “Let Him Go on Mama” as a quintessential country song filled with narrative storytelling, fiddle-infused melodies, and sung by a strong country accent. Sons of Johnny Cash and John Hartford, John Carter Cash & Jamie Hartford cover the nostalgic and somber ballad “In Tall Buildings” (feat. Norman Blake & Jerry Douglas) about growing up and losing the magic that comes with childhood.
This honorable record contains many other artists that pay tribute to John Hartford, such as Yonder Mountain String Band, Leftover Salmon, Keller Williams, The Band of Heathens, Todd Snider, Greg Garrison and Danny Barnes. Hartford took country music to a new level, by molding the genre to intertwine personal backgrounds and history with all the subgenres relating to country music.