John Hartford

Good Old Boys

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Good Old Boys is something of a return to form for John Hartford. As with Retrograss, an album he recorded with David Grisman and Mike Seeger, Hartford eschews fiddle tunes to concentrate on a number of good songs. The album kicks off with the melancholy title track, which exalts the virtues of reliable old friends, before delving into tributes to a number of Hartford's bluegrass heroes. "On the Radio" recalls the first time he heard Earl Scruggs' banjo coming in loud and clear, and it's one of the catchiest tunes on the album. The life of Bill Monroe is remembered in "The Cross-Eyed Child," a ten-minute pastiche that combines music and monolog. All of these songs are pleasant, if a bit mellow. The only difficulty rests in their length. Four of the first five songs last over five minutes, while "The Cross-Eyed Child" extends for over ten. This latter piece also becomes tiresome, as Hartford mutters on and on with the musicians plucking away behind him. The second half of the album works better. There's a nifty piece titled "Billy the Kid" and an old song, "Keep on Truckin'," that dates back almost 30 years. Good Old Boys doesn't stack up to Hartford's classic '70s albums, but it's a fun album that will please longtime fans.

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