Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

On the Road: A Tribute to John Hartford [LoHi, 2020]
A quadruple-Grammy-winning songwriter for 1968's "Gentle on My Mind" who corraled three less august Grammys thereafter, the O Brother, Where Art Thou? one after he died of cancer in 2001, Hartford is fondly remembered and deserves to be--the income generated by his greatest hit guaranteed a newgrass fiddle and banjo maestro the financial security to excel at a bunch of things he loved, mentoring included. So in the same plague-ridden year that finished off the 10th Annual John Hartford Memorial Festival in Bean Blossom, Indiana, two tribute albums surfaced as scheduled anyway, and while The John Hartford Fiddle Tune Project is too specialized for me, this songwriting showcase proves quite the grab bag. Unfamiliar titles by artists I'd never cottoned to--"The Category Stomp" and "Back in the Goodle Days" and "Granny Woncha Smoke Some Marijuana" and "Waugh Paugh" and the irresistible "Up on the Hill Where They Do the Boogie," Yonder Mountain String Band and Band of Heathens and Leftover Salmon--rang my chimes so loud it was a while before I noticed the Todd Snider track. Best in show: a John Carter Cash-Jamie Hartford collab that torpedoes the seductive fantasy of finding happiness in the city. A-