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Good'le Days

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Album Review

This compilation, issued eight years after John Hartford's death in 2001, is part of Rounder's budget Perfect Ten retrospective series. This cuts were recorded between 1976 and 1988, and showcase the fact that, despite falling out of the public eye — if he was ever really in it; Glen Campbell had a huge hit with "Gentle on My Mind," which Hartford had written — the songwriter, interpreter, and multi-instrumentalist remained an eclectic, always compelling recording artist. While there isn't a substandard track on this set, there are clear highlights. His reinterpretation of "Gentle on My Mind" is adorned with whining pedal steel, Benny Martin's fiddle, Sam Bush's mandolin, and of course, Hartford's banjo. While his voice isn't as rich as Campbell's — few singers were that gifted — it is earthy and rich, lending a world-weariness to the romance that keeps it rooted inside the human heart. "Skippin' in the Mississippi Dew" is a stomping fiddle tune that bridges both Cajun and Appalachian traditions. There's an Americana reading of Joseph Philbrick Webster's and Rev. Henry DeLafayette Webster's "Lorena," his own "In Tall Buildings," a country waltz that resembles "Mr. Bojangles" in its intro, and the slow banjo stroll of "Old Time River Man." Rootsy and pure, this retrospective provides ample evidence of why Hartford was such a unique talent.


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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