A gifted banjo and fiddle player, John Hartford led a uniquely accomplished musical career that included pioneering newgrass music and winning multiple Grammys. One of his most enduring accomplishments is the song “Gentle on My Mind,” which Robert Ellis and Courtney Hartman have reimagined as a part of their new tribute album to Hartford, Dear John.
Originally recorded by Hartford in 1967, “Gentle on My Mind” was immortalized the following year with Glen Campbell’s rendition, which helped usher in his television program in the late Sixties and early Seventies. To date, other versions have been cut by Aretha Franklin, Dean Martin and Elvis Presley, among many others. Ellis and Hartman – a guitarist and banjo player for bluegrass outfit Della Mae – borrow from the frenetic picking of Campbell’s version, slowing the pace a touch and transforming the restless wanderer’s love ode into a warm, delicate duet. The pair toured together last year, and the synergy they developed is particularly evident as their guitars lock into step during the extended instrumental coda.
Dear John will be released December 8th through Refugee Foundation for the Arts. Ellis and Hartman will embark on a short tour next month to coincide with the record’s release, beginning December 9th at Cactus Cafe in Austin, Texas.