On the Road – John Hartford

April 27, 2010

Well, another tour coming up for me with Groanbox, so this number by newgrass pioneer John Hartford felt appropriate. We toured around the east coast of the US a few years ago listening to his anthology, completely hooked by his ferocious ingenuity, sense of rhythm and attack (see Skippin’ In the Missisippi Dew), and his unflinching willingness to remain utterly unique. His obsession with steamboats (see second track below) – which led him to become a pilot on the Mississippi River – nourished his songwriting in a powerful way. His prodigious exploration of new techniques and sounds on the banjo, fiddle, mando, guitar (etc etc), combined with his rich lyrics and inventive vocal delivery, and his wild, frenetic-relaxed clogging make him most definitely the best bluegrasser who ever lived in my eyes.

A road tune in five (how many bluegrass tunes have you heard in 5/4?), off the album Morning Bugle:

On the Road – John Hartford

Off the album Mark Twang:

The Julia Belle Swain – John Hartford

And finally, some banjo hip hop:


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