Black Music Matters Festival

John Hartford

Memories Of John – 2010 (Compass)

Reviewed by Larry Stephens

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CDs by John Hartford

It's ironic but somehow fitting that the song that made John Hartford famous is omitted from this tribute CD. Gentle On My Mind was released with limited success by Hartford, but then covered by Glen Campbell (one of more than 300 covers). Campbell's version became a giant hit, and Hartford was a regular guest on Campbell's TV show.

Hartford followed his whimsy and never let the boundaries of genre influence his music. This tribute album by friends and his last band reflects that erratic course through the musical spectrum. From a poem backed only by the sound of dancing feet (For John) to a country and bluegrass standard (Love Grown Cold) to a pre-Civil War song that was a fan favorite (Lorena), it becomes clear there is no pattern, no formula to the music but, then, that was John Hartford.

The CD ends with a previously unreleased snippet (Fade Out) featuring Hartford alone with his guitar. It's a touching end to this tribute to a man whose memory will never fade away.