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John Hartford’s Rare Recordings Assembled on New ‘Backroads, Rivers and Memories’

Collection features 27 of the country and bluegrass ace’s Sixties-era recordings, 19 of them previously unreleased

John Hartford

John Hartford's rare Sixties recordings will be featured on the new 'Backroads, Rivers & Memories' album.

Jim McCrary/Redferns

Legendary songwriter and musician John Hartford, who came into millions of homes each week playing banjo on the highly rated Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour from 1969 to 1972, forged his own Grammy-winning career as a versatile session musician, unique lyricist and compelling storyteller on hits like “Gentle on My Mind.” Now, a collection of vintage Hartford cuts dating from 1965 to 1969, including 19 previously unreleased tracks, will be available with Backroads, Rivers & Memories — The Rare & Unreleased John Hartford, due March 1st via Real Gone Music.

A sideman on such influential LPs as the Byrds’ Sweetheart of the Rodeo and James Taylor’s Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon, Hartford also recorded the 1971 album Aereo-Plain, which is widely regarded as the debut of “Newgrass.” That movement melded traditional bluegrass music with hippie counterculture and featured now-iconic musicians including Norman Blake, Vassar Clements, Tut Taylor and Randy Scruggs. A brief first-rehearsal take of “Steam Powered Aereo Plain” from that album is included in this new set, which also highlights eight extremely rare early singles Hartford recorded with the Ozark Mountain Trio.

Hartford, who earned a Grammy for his contribution to the groundbreaking film soundtrack for O Brother, Where Art Thou in 2000, joined the subsequent Down From the Mountain Tour, which the film’s music inspired. Illness soon forced him to retire, however, and he was just 63 years old when he succumbed to Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma in June 2001.

Backroads, Rivers & Memories — The Rare & Unreleased John Hartford track listing:

Demos

  1. “Towboat River”
  2. “Tall Tall Grass”
  3. “Front Porch”
  4. “Eve of My Multiplication”
  5. “California Earthquake”
  6. “Left Handed Woman”
  7. “George”
  8. “Run”
  9. “This Eve of Parting”
  10. “Self Made Man”
  11. “Minus the Woman”
  12. “Like Unto a Mockingbird”
  13. “Grownup Man”
  14. “Gentle on My Mind”
  15. “Steam Powered Aereo Plain” (first rehearsal excerpt)
  16. Station Break

Live on WHOW, Clinton IL with Pat Burton (guitar) & Nate Bray (mandolin)

  1. “Ice Cold Love”
  2. “Matthew 24”
  3. “Greensleeves”

The Ozark Mountain Trio singles

  1. “Corrina”
  2. “Greenback Dollar”
  3. “Jesus Loves Everybody”
  4. “I Forgot to Forget”
  5. “The Way Is Narrow”
  6. “Short Life of Trouble”
  7. “That Great Day Is Coming”
  8. “When I Feel the Hand of My Saviour”

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