Memories of John is a tribute album to John Hartford by members of his band and other musician friends. John Hartford is famous for his hit song "Gentle on My Mind". He was a very talented and unique song writer and musician. The John Hartford String Band (JHSB) presents a number of favorite tunes that John would perform on his tours. Vocals were provided by band members or guest artists such as Tim O'Brien and Alan O'Bryant. Some of the tunes were previously unrecorded and there are a couple of unpublished cuts of John that were retrieved from his archives.
Why bother with a tribute album? First John Hartford's music is a wonderful mix of pure old time music with a quirky taste of other styles. John had a somewhat nasal but appealing quality in his singing. The vocals on the album bring out this feel but—of course—can never replace him. John loved fiddle and banjo and several of the tunes are instrumentals. With help from Alyson Brown, Bela Fleck and George Buckner, John's banjo music comes alive again. The Hartford favorites on the CD, also show off the fiddle playing style that he used.
I enjoyed the previously unrecorded tune Homer the Roamer. Which is a complex Celtic melody that John composed on the fiddle. It has a driving rhythm that is really appealing. For John is a poetic tribute to John's memory featuring Eileen Carson Schatz's foot work imitating John's famous foot rhythm accompaniment. The Hartford waltzes included here are very nice. As is "Madison" which is an unreleased song written by Hartford about his home in Madison, Tennessee.
About fifteen years ago, I had the privilege to see John Hartford in a solo performance in my home town. There he was with his banjo or fiddle and his amplified plywood sheet tapping out the rhythm while he sang and played. Truly a gifted one man band. The JHSB traveled with John on tours and are a great bunch of players: Chris Sharp, Bob Carlin, Matt Combs, Mark Schatz and Mike Compton. This album brings back the musical genius of John Hartford.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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