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Classic Digital Releases: Producer David Bromberg Reflects On Aereo-Plain

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Aereo-Plain/JohnHartford.com/ The classic early-1970s albums Aereo-Plain and Morning Bugle were recently re-released in digital form. Aereo-Plain was a groundbreaking album that connected traditional bluegrass with the music of that era. Sam Bush has said the record inspired his and other artists' work in newgrass. John was joined on the record by Vasser Clements, Norman Blake, Tut Taylor and Ricky Scruggs.

The digital releases are “long overdue,” said Mason Williams, director of A&R for Rhino Entertainment, which oversees the back catalog for Warner labels. “A lot of people don't know that John had two records on Warner Brothers, let alone the caliber of the records. It's exciting to get them out there digitally, especially for a younger audience that may not know what a record is and certainly would not be buying a CD.”

Aereo-Plain was produced by David Bromberg, a legendary musician and session player known for his guitar excellence and, more recently, his violin prowess. Bromberg has contributed to some 150 records over the years. We caught up with him from his violin shop in Wilmington, Delaware, and asked him to reflect on the pioneering album that he had produced for John.

"What was going on," he said, "was that we were discarding some of the rules. But the musicians who were discarding the rules knew those rules cold. They could play in a straight jacket so beautifully you'd never notice the strait jacket, but we got rid of the straight jacket. It was kind of a liberation of bluegrass string-band music, allowing it to do something else. Truthfully, it needed something. Bluegrass was as dead as a mackerel. Around that time there were the hard-core devotees in the South and in the North, but that's all the music went to it. It wasn't played on the radio, it wasn't a mass movement."

At the time of Aereo-Plain, Bromberg was an influential fixture on the Big Apple's music scene. "Someone once told me that John had told them he asked me to produce it because he wanted a New York City viewpoint," Bromberg said. "I think that is correct. In New York, we'd sit around and smoke pot and play ‘Sally Goodin' for an hour and a half. That approach kind of became, after a while, newgrass. John wanted some of the wild playing that we did in New York. After about 30 choruses of ‘Sally Goodin', it begins to get strange. And that's what he liked. I think if he had gotten a Nashville producer, he wouldn't have gotten that. I think I was chosen because I understood that direction."

To read the entire conversation with David Bromberg, please visit Phil Newman's entire article at Aereo-Plain Talk (pdf).

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