John Hartford

Me Oh My, How the Time Does Fly: A John Hartford Anthology

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While a number of fine albums -- Aereo-Plain, Morning Bugle, and Mark Twang -- would serve as a good introduction to John Hartford, Me Oh My, How the Time Does Fly offers the best overall collection. The reason? It has the most music, 65 minutes, and offers samples from most of Hartford's albums between 1976 and 1984. "Skippin' in the Mississippi Dew," "The Julia Belle Swain," and "Let Him Go on, Mama" represent Mark Twang, an album some consider Hartford's finest, while "Good Old Electric Washing Machine" and "I Would Not Be Here" are drawn from Catalogue, an album that revisits his out-of-print RCA recordings. There are also a number of pieces from All in the Name of Love and Slumberin' on the Cumberland. Three of the most intriguing tracks, "Natchez Whistle," "Miss Ferris," and "On Christmas Eve," come from the also unavailable Headin' Down Into the Mystery Below. With no more than a banjo and a few background singers, Hartford spins out the delightful "Miss Ferris" for seven minutes. The downside of this collection is that only two songs show up from Hartford's earlier Rounder albums, and one of them is an inferior, re-recorded version of "Boogie." The other is a fine, though somewhat mellow, version of "Nobody Eats at Linebaugh's Anymore" with the New Grass Revival serving as backup band. One also fears that the song choices, as excellent as they are, purposely downplay Hartford's more eccentric attributes. He had taken a step back toward traditionalism on Gum Tree Canoe, which had been released a few years before this collection. Nonetheless, Me Oh My, How the Time Does Fly will do a fine job introducing the unfamiliar to Mr. John Hartford. Indeed, even the avid fan will probably want to add this excellent group of tunes to their Hartford collection.

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