Two of the finest and most significant country /folk albums of the ‘70s, John Hartford’s Aereo-Plain and Morning Bugle are being re-issued by Real Gone Music with a new collection, Aereo-Plain/Morning Bugle—the Complete Warner Bros. Recordings.
The collection is a two-CD, 35-track set that includes four unreleased tracks on each album. Liner notes are by music critic Andrew Vaughan, and the Hartford family has generously contributed photos from John’s private collection.
In the early ‘70s John Hartford, fresh from TV stardom and enjoying the fruits of writing one of the most popular songs of all time, “Gentle on My Mind” changed the face of country music. in 1971 and 1972 he was responsible not just for two of the finest folk and country albums of the era but for a new style of bluegrass, a style that would become known as Newgrass.
In 1971 Hartford recorded the seminal Aereo-Plain album alongside bluegrass great Vassar Clements on fiddle, master-craftsman dobro player Tut Taylor, gifted guitarist Norman Blake and Earl Scruggs’ son Randy Scruggs on bass. The sound was fresh, innovative and spawned a hoist of imitators. Indeed Sam Bush of the New Grass Revival said later: “Without Aereo-Plain, there would be no ‘newgrass’ music.”
As with most musical pioneers, Hartford’s innovative album was a commercial disaster at which point he went even more eclectic on the 1972 follow up, Morning Bugle.
This time Hartford just used two musicians Norman Blake again on guitar and a jazz bass player, Dave Holland to complement his banjo (and occasional overdubbed guitar and fiddle). The country jazz feel and Hartfords esoteric lyrics baffled the industry even more than Aereo-Plain had but critics and musicians were effusive in their praise.
Now, some forty years on these recording are regarded as acoustic music classics and this collection is essential listening for anyone who cares not just about John Hartford but for the beauty and power of acoustic music.