Personnel: John Hartford (vocals, guitar, banjo, fiddle, dancer); Richard Schulman, Jeannie Seely, Tommy Hannum (vocals); Jim Colvard (guitar); Buddy Emmons (steel guitar); Jerry Douglas , Tut Taylor (dobro); Marty Stuart, Sam Bush (mandolin); Ruth McGinnis, Holly O'Dell, Benny Martin, Jonathan Yudkin, Vassar Clements (fiddle); Billy Lee Riley (harmonica); Hargus "Pig" Robbins (piano); Randy Scruggs (electric bass).
Audio Mixers: Mark Howard; Mitch Easter; Wes Lachot; Richard Adler .
Recording information: Cinderella Studios, Nashville, TN (1975); Cowboy Arms Hotel And Recording Spa (1975); Glaser Sound Studios, Nashville, TN (1975); The Sound Shop, Nashville, TN (1975).
Arrangers: John Hartford; Mark Howard.
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. ~ Thom Jurek