When he wasn’t playing sidekick to Glen Campbell on TV’s Good Time Hour or appearing on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, “Gentle On My Mind” songwriter John Hartford was also an in-demand, banjo-picking sideman. He appeared for acts like James Taylor, Delaney & Bonnie, Seals & Crofts, and The Byrds. His unique, Flatt and Scruggs-inspired style started him on his music sojourn that found him embracing conventional country, classic bluegrass stylings, and Dylan-inspired introspection. Blend all these influences and you get Newgrass–the style he singlehandedly created with the 1971 album Aero Plain.
All these facets of John Hartford’s career are explored on Real Gone Music’s new compilation, Backroads, Rivers & Memories: The Rare and Unreleased John Hartford. The Hartford Estate-approved collection brings together a whopping 27 recordings, 19 of which have never been released before, and the other 8 comprised of his rare sides recorded with The Ozark Mountain Trio. Also appearing are three live radio tracks from 1964, and 16 songwriter demos from 1965-1969. Among these demos are five newly unearthed songs that have never been heard before. Fans will also get to hear alternate versions of favorites like “Gentle On My Mind,” “Steam Powered Aero Plain,” and “This Eve of Parting”–which recently appeared in the film Lady Bird.
The set was compiled and annotated by Hartford expert Skip Heller, whose notes grace a booklet filled with photos from the Hartford family archive. The music was mastered Kevin Chubirka at Haven.