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Banjo Friday 4

When I was in university and just starting to teach myself the 5-string banjo, I haunted used record stores trying to find old LPs of banjo music to learn from. This was at a time when bluegrass and old-time string band music had fallen out fashion. One day, I came across John Hartford's "Aereo-Plain." It had a rather unusual cover for a bluegrass album (see below), but I decided to take a chance and purchased it. I'm glad I did, for it has become one of my favourite albums. Most of the songs are originals, composed and sung by Hartford, but done in a bluegrass style. Hartford plays banjo and he's backed up by a dream band that includes Vassar Clements on fiddle, Tut Taylor on dobro and Norman Blake on guitar. The album is playful and slightly tongue in cheek, presented as an old-time country music radio show with a theme that begins and ends the show and fake commercials selling nonsensical products. I'm also pretty sure that some of the songs are about drug use. Definitely not your typical bluegrass album full of Bill Monroe covers. While the album was largely ignored by the general public at the time it was released, it had a huge influence on young musicians who were interested in exploring old-time acoustic music. It helped inspire a bluegrass revival called "Newgrass."

Here is the title track from that album. Enjoy:


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