Aereo-Plain/Morning Bugle: The Complete Warner Bros. Recordings

Aereo-Plain/Morning Bugle: The Complete Warner Bros. Recordings

by John Hartford


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John Hartford had his own vision for country, bluegrass, and folk, and after his seminal pop-country-folk composition "Gentle on My Mind" was a huge hit for Glen Campbell in 1968 (and was subsequently covered by everyone from Aretha Franklin to Frank Sinatra), he backed off of the star singer/songwriter path he no doubt could have traveled, and buoyed by the royalties that "Gentle on My Mind" generated, became a river boat pilot, began studying the history of American fiddle music, and started pursuing his own maverick muse down an idiosyncratic path toward what would eventually became known as "New Grass" music. His two albums for Warner Bros, 1971's Aereo-Plain and 1972's Morning Bugle, were pretty much the opening salvo for this sort of music, and Warners had no idea how to market either of them. Not surprisingly, both were commercial flops. Aereo-Plain was produced by New York folkie David Bromberg (who had never produced an album before) and the Morning Bugle by John Simon, who was fresh from working with the Band, who were also reshaping folk and country roots into a new kind of American music at the time. Both of these albums (Aereo-Plain featured guitarist Norman Blake, dobro player Tut Taylor, fiddler Vassar Clements, and bassist Randy Scruggs, while Morning Bugle had a slightly jazzier feel and had Hartford playing banjo with Blake again on guitar and Dave Holland, fresh from stints with Miles Davis, on bass) have a good-natured, sometimes silly, and always interesting acoustic backporch vibe to them, and they fit together well in this new two-disc reissue set (there are also eight bonus tracks from the album sessions, four from each). Hartford's songs are really like no-one else's, and he knows how to shine up and deliver traditional material, too. His vision is bit like Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn, wry, stubborn, silly, and ultimately hopeful, and it seamlessly stitches together the old and the new folk musics, a kind of alternative folk before anyone even had the notion of such a thing.

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