It’s a new song called Cumberland River Shore, written as a tribute to the great John Hartford by Billy Smith and Matt Combs. You can hear echoes of John’s music in the melody and lyrics, and in the arrangement LRB gives their cut, starting out with Sammy Shelor’s award-winning banjo.
Sammy says that he has been holding on to this one for a while, recalling his deep admiration for Hartford.
“Billy sent me this song a couple of years ago. It was a tribute to John’s days on the Mississippi River. Having gotten to know John myself in the later years of his life, and really valuing that experience, I really wanted to do this song as a tribute from the band and myself. John was one of my favorite musicians and entertainers, and I regret not getting to know him years before. Long live John Hartford’s music!”
Cumberland River Shore features Jesse Smathers on lead vocal and mandolin, supported by Shelor on banjo, Brandon Rickman on guitar, Mike Hartgrove on fiddle, and Barry Reed on bass.
Check it out.
Co-writer Matt Combs, a frequent Hartford collaborator, shared a bit about how they put this song together.
“Billy Smith and I wrote this song in the early aughts up at my old rental house in Madison, Tennessee, just down the road from John Hartford’s place on, you guessed it, the Cumberland River shore. You could sit in the living room and watch the boats and the tempo of the river.”
And Smith remembers it being the work of a moment.
“Matt had John’s hat hanging on the wall, along with a song scripted by John — it seemed like Hartford’s spirit was all around us that day. Matt and I had the song demoed before lunch, and went out and had sushi, something John and I did quite a few times together.”