JOHN HARTFORD AND HOWDY FORRESTER
Spring Fed Records
Taken from cassette recordings made by John Hartford in the home of Howdy Forrester in 1986. These are informal recordings and the relaxed nature reveals two friends playing tunes, Howdy on the fiddle and John playing his banjo in his three-finger-style that is bluegrass and old-time all at once.
Many of the tunes came from Howdy’s great uncle Bob Cates, who was an early influence on the young fiddler. That this is not the first time these two sat down like this and played is evident in John’s knowledge of Howdy’s repertory and his prodding for different tunes. There is also a relaxed repartee here in the stories related between the tunes that isn’t necessarily fit for broadcast, but displays the level of comfort these two musicians shared.
Along with the fine liner notes, written by Jim Wood (also a Tennessee fiddler who did a recording with John), there are transcriptions of the tunes played here. They are not exactly what Howdy plays, but offer the main gist along with some of his many variations. These aren’t what one would term high-fidelity recordings due to having been made on a cassette recorder. What the recording lacks in that area, it more than makes up for in the absolute brilliance of the performances. Tunes include “Going Across The Sea,” “Dugler With A Shoefly,” “Sugar In The Gourd,” and “Ladies In The Ballroom,” to name a few.
For longtime fans of either of these great artists and fans of the fine old tunes that are part of the bedrock of our music, this is a fine recording well worth hearing and enjoying. (Spring Fed Records, Center for Popular Music, MTSU Box 41, Murfreesboro, TN 37132, www.springfedrecords.com.)RCB