If you know the name “John Hartford,” you are probably a fan. I don’t think I’ve heard anyone say they didn’t enjoy the man’s music, imagination, and wit.
Hartford was a fanatic for traditional fiddling, especially the styles from the western side of Appalachia along the Ohio River and down through Missouri toward the middle parts of the U.S. And for all the research and scrutinous study of traditional fiddling, his fiddle had a voice all its own.
The man played banjo with such soul, sweetness, and tone. Among banjo nerds there are all kinds of ideas about Scruggs style versus Keith style versus Fleck and Trischka. The hard-driving classic bluegrass’s and the funky sweetness of jazz and newgrass pickers. Hartford’s banjo sound had its own voice, almost a granfather’s chuckling narrative.
His singing, his lyrics, his stories, his constant dancing and musicality are all over tons of great records. Get out to Amazon or iTunes or a good used CD shop and pick up a couple things by Hartford if you’re unfamiliar. It’s funky, fun,, acoustic, purely American music that defies genre.
Marcy Cochran and Sheila Nichols are two fabulous filmmakers and fiddlers working on a John Hartford documentary. They have piles of primary source material from family, friends, and legendary musicians such as Glenn Campbell and Earl Scruggs. Check out their Kick Starter campaign here and consider lending your support. And check out the trailer here on Youtube. This is great stuff for your ears and your heart.