Hartford and Forrester home recordings available

Home Made Sugar and a Puncheon Floor - John Hartford and Howdy ForresterSpring Fed Records, a label associated with the Center for Popular Music at Middle Tennessee State University, has announced a January 15 release for Home Made Sugar and a Puncheon Floor, a CD of home recordings made by John Hartford and Howdy Forrester.

Serious fans of acoustic and bluegrass music will know John Hartford as both a pop culture figure and an icon of early 20th century string music. He achieved success in the music business through performing with Glen Campbell on television, and writing his hit song, Gentle On My Mind. This gave him the artistic freedom to pursue his own devilish mix of old time and bluegrass, based on his sincere passion for the artists who preceded him and his own quirky sense of musical humor.

Forrester had been “the man” in Nashville during the 1940s. He worked with Bill Monroe on fiddle before and after a stint in the Army, and later recorded with Flatt & Scruggs. But as a member of Roy Acuff’s band he achieved more mainstream recognition, leading to a string of successful fiddle albums from the late ’50s until shortly before his death in 1987.

In his life long quest to better understand traditional American fiddle music, Hartford befriended as many masters of the style as he could, and this set tunes were recorded during a visit with Forrester in 1986. The album includes numbers that Howdy recalled learning from his Great Uncle, Bob Cates, as opposed to the show numbers he was famous for playing on the Grand Ole Opry.

Greg Reish, Director of the Center for Popular Music, tells us that they acquired this tape after Hartford’s passing in 2001.

“The whole album is John on banjo and Howdy on fiddle. The tape, made by John, is one of many remarkable home or field recordings in the CPM archive. We acquired it as part of the Charles Wolfe Collection.

We just took over Spring Fed Records in the middle of 2014, and this is one of our first releases. We decided on this one because the music is great, it’s regional (part of our misssion), and both of these performers generate considerable  interest.”

Home Made Sugar and a Puncheon Floor includes a booklet with transcriptions of the tunes and notes from Jim Wood, a celebrated fiddler himself and a friend of both John and Howdy.

The Center is hosting a CD release event tomorrow night (1/14) at American Legion Post 82 on Gallatin Pike in Nashville. Wood and a group consisting of Tracy Latham, Inge Wood and Ben Ayers will perform tunes from the record. Advance copies of the CD will be available for sale.

Widespread distribution will commence on the 15th, will digital downloads offered shortly thereafter.

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John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.