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John Hartford

Gum Tree Canoe – 2001 (Flying Fish)

Reviewed by John Lupton

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CDs by John Hartford

Originally released two decades ago, "Gum Tree Canoe" is now a remastered reissue of one of the Hartford's more artistically ambitious and entertaining albums and comes as a welcome companion piece to "Hamilton Ironworks." Where the new release serves as something of a "musical autobiography" in which Hartford pays tribute to his own development, "Gum Tree Canoe" in many ways defined him as an entertainer.

Among the dozen tracks are several of the songs that came to be indispensable parts of his on-stage repertoire from the title track, to the Civil War era ballad "Lorena," to Johnny Bond's '50's-era honky-tonker "I Wonder Where You Are Tonight" and even a shot at Janis Joplin, bluegrass-style, with "Little Piece Of My Heart" (not to mention the Rolling Stones' "No Expectations").

Backed by a cast that included Jack Clement, Mark Howard, Mark O'Connor, Sam Bush, Marty Stuart and Jerry Douglas, this is Hartford at his entertaining best, a bittersweet reminder of how much was lost to us when he passed away last June.