John Hatrford - Speed of the Longbow

Speed of the Old Long Bow

John Hartford

Rounder CD 0438

Rounder Records Corp.
One Camp Street
Cambridge, MA 02140

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Allen Price

Old time fiddler Ed Haley made a huge impression on John Hartford.  After working with Rounder to remaster and re-release two of Haley's albums on CD, Hartford picked up his own fiddle to record this album of Haley's music.   An excellent follow up album to his Wild Hog In The Red Brush, Hartford offers us a chance to explore the music of an artist who might otherwise have slipped by most of us. 

Hartford is joined by a corps of players who work seamlessly with him in recreating the smooth flow of continuous music that typifies Haley's work. Bob Carlin, who has worked with Hartford on several projects, plays clawhammer banjo.   Other players on this album are Mike Compton (mandolin), Robert Gately (string bass), and Darren Vincent (guitar and percussion).

This all-instrumental collection of fiddle tunes is played in the "Haley style".  Hartford describes the "recipe" in his liner notes:

"It's loosely based on a big band device of changing the texture every eight bars.

"For lack of a better name, we call this a "window" rhythm section. We've tried to find a better name but this one won't go away. I really don't like it cause it sounds too much like computers.

"Everybody has a bunch of things they can do on their instruments you can l) play rhythm on the down beat, 2) play rhythm on the off beat, 3) play a figure, like boogie woogie, 4) play a figure, like high or low bass runs, 5) play unison lead, 6) play harmony, 7) deaden your strings and play rhythm things, 8) play 4/4 chromatic runs, 9) play straight open chord rhythm, 10) play closed chords, 11) always play just one note like the tonic or 12) you can just lay out.

"So every eight bars (a window) you change what you're doing or lay out (less is more). You might have five or six instruments and never more than three playing at the same time."

The result is a smooth, seemingly free flowing outpouring of music destined to put your feet into motion.  Hartford has once again transported us back to a time and place when life was simpler.  Once you start playing this album, don't be surprised if you let it play continuously for hours at a time.   And don't be surprised if it makes you want to learn the fiddle.

Track Listing

All tunes by Ed Haley

  • Hell Up Coal Hollar
  • Yellow Barber
  • Lost Indian
  • Dunbar
  • Brushy Fork of John's Creek
  • Bonaparte's Retreat
  • Forks Of Sandy
  • Cattlettsburg
  • Half Past Four
  • Blackberry Blossom
  • Pumpkin Ridge
  • Brownlow's Dream
  • Rebel Raid
  • Boatman
  • Ida Red

Edited by Paula Gregorowicz

Copyright 1999, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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