In praise of John Hartford

Like many people, I'm sure, I have always discovered music by slow degrees, working from one artist to another by influence, collaboration or scene. Through that process, I sometimes stumble across artists that I can't believe I haven't discovered before, because they seem to be so linked into lots of other things I like. One such joy came recently when I checked out the work of John Hartford. He was an American songwriter and artist who wrote Glen Campbell's hit 'Gentle on my mind' and worked extensively with one of my favourite guitarists, Norman Blake. He also appears on the soundtrack to 'Oh Brother where art thou.' I had actually heard his work through a cover by Gillian Welch (another favourite) of his song 'In Tall Buildings', though didn't know who was behind it.

When I finally heard his own performances of his material I immediately heard in him that same melancholy, yearning beauty that I cherish in the like of Gillian Welch, Kris Kristofferson and, another recent 'discovery', Mickey Newbury.  Although his songs vary from straight ahead country to more reflective whimsy, he seems to have a consistent, intelligent soulfulness married to a fine songwriter's craft and true musicality. This performance of the aforementioned 'In Tall Buildings' gives a flavour of what he's about:

Sadly he died in 2001, but I think he may be someone who will remain in my life for a long time.