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John Hartford & Howdy Forrester Album Released

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Spring Fed Records, the Grammy-winning documentary label operated by The Center for Popular Music at Middle Tennessee State University, announces the release of Home Made Sugar and a Puncheon Floor, a set of home recordings made by John Hartford and fiddling legend Howdy Forrester. This recording preserves a repertoire of many rare, old tunes that Howdy had learned as a boy from his Great Uncle Bob Cates in Hickman County, Tennessee. Hartford plays banjo, Forrester fiddles, and the two share informal discussion about the tunes and their sources.

John Hartford, who passed away in 2001, was a well-known songwriter and musician, still revered by many today for his unique combination of bold musical innovation and reverence for Southern traditional music. Hartford made many visits to the homes of traditional musicians, always recording their conversations and jam sessions. Some of these musicians were little-known but others, like Howdy Forrester, were quite famous. Forrester was best known as the long-time fiddler in Roy Acuff’s band, and in that capacity played weekly on the Grand Ole Opry.

The original tape is preserved in the archives of The Center for Popular Music, one of the nation’s largest and richest repositories of research materials related to American vernacular music. The CPM is part of MTSU’s College of Media Entertainment.

CPM Director Dr. Greg Reish says that “these home recordings offer a rare aural glimpse of two iconic musicians playing the music they loved in an informal setting.” He adds that “these are not the pieces that Howdy played every Saturday night on the Opry, but the tunes he learned from his family and his community. That’s what makes these recordings so special.”

Grammy-winning bluegrass musician and Academy of Country Music fiddle player of the year Stuart Duncan calls the CD a “must have for anyone wanting to connect musical dots.”

The CD was co-produced by Greg Reish and label manager John Fabke, with digital transfers by CPM audio specialist Martin Fisher and final mastering by MTSU Recording Industry professor Michael Fleming. The booklet includes extensive liner notes and transcriptions of the tunes by noted middle Tennessee contest fiddler and teacher Jim Wood, who grew up in Hickman County and knew both Hartford and Forrester.

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