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Mark Twang

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Album Review

From the early to mid-'70s, John Hartford let his eccentric genius run wild, creating the cult favorite Aereo-Plain and the lovely, straightforward Morning Bugle. Mark Twang, released in 1976, proved to be the pinnacle of Hartford's artistic run. Unlike the previous albums though, it was stripped down to only Hartford recording live in the studio. The album's themes circle around the Mississippi river, steamboats, and river men. The songs, as usual, run from sentimental to strange, from the romantic to the weird. "Let Him Go on Mama" is a tribute to a river man with the wonderful refrain, "you say he's old fashioned/well that ain't no big deal." "Skippin' in the Mississippi Dew" pays joyful foot stomping, fiddle sawing homage to the mighty river with a barrage of old-fashioned imagery. Hartford's unconventional side rears its head on "Don't Leave Your Records in the Sun," a song complete with imitations of skips and other odd noises a record might make after becoming warped. "Tryin' to Do Something to Get Your Attention" is a fun, if downright peculiar song, that will, for better or worse, get the listener's attention. Perhaps the most bizarre contribution, though, is "Tater Tate and Allen Mundy," a homage in which Hartford attempts to string together every important name that ever graced a bluegrass stage. This song, and album, may seem at odds with the artist's image as a progressive bluegrass musician, but he never drew lines between the old and new — he just followed his muse. Mark Twang may not be the first stopping place for the new Hartford fan, but for those already familiar with his unique talent, it's a must have. ~ Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr., Rovi


Born: 30 December 1937 in New York, NY

Genre: Country

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

John Hartford remains best known for the country-pop standard "Gentle on My Mind," a major hit for Glen Campbell and subsequently covered by vocalists ranging from Frank Sinatra to Aretha Franklin. The song remains among the most often recorded in the history of popular music, its copyright netting Hartford well over a hundred thousand dollars annually for many years. But there was more to Hartford than that curious mix of highly literary folk music and MOR romantic nostalgia, told from the perspective...
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