John Hartford


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AllMusic Review by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.

Shortly after being released in 1971, Aereo-Plain achieved cult status. Hartford enlisted such Nashville notables as guitarist Norman Blake, dobro player Tut Taylor, violinist Vassar Clements, and bassist Randy Scruggs to help out in the studio. The cult following of Aereo-Plain though, has less to do with the music than with Hartford's quirky songs and even quirkier approach. "Boogie" is a mind-boggling song that includes grunts, foot stomping, and panting. Hartford seems to have no problem progressing from the old-time religion of "Turn Your Radio On" to the irreverence of "Back in the Goodle Days." This later song conjures up images of a future meeting between old friends at the city dump ("Oh you'll pass a joint/and I'll pass the wine") to relive their glory days. Hardly Bruce Springsteen. One of the attractions to this material is that Hartford seems to be in his element, just doing what comes natural to him. He also has quite a sentimental streak that never spills over to the sappy. "First Girl I Loved" is an unabashedly gentle song about trying to find your first love in every subsequent love. Romantic fiddle and mandolin greatly add to the melancholy mood. "Tear Down the Grand Ole Opry" is another love song, memorializing the Ryman Auditorium that would be abandoned in 1974. While Hartford would go on to make other great albums, Aereo-Plain signaled the full blooming of his eccentric talent. This is an essential album for any fan, revealing both his genius and the glory days of early '70s progressive bluegrass.

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