John Hartford, et al.

An eloquent goodbye to Hartford, a gentle man who preferred riverboats and acoustic Americana music to L.A. skyscrapers, this Mountain Stage tribute, taped in September 2000, is a celebration by his musical friends of the loving attitude he inspired. He plays five numbers here (he died in June) backed by a crack band that fully meets his free-flowing eccentric approach to old-timey music. Hartford’s life’s the focus, as he weaves musical stories into the songs. For the true-blue fan, they’re marvelous; for others, they may get tedious over time. The obligatory “Gentle on My Mind” here is rendered beautifully by Kathy Mattea and Tim O’Brien. Norman Blake and Bela Fleck contribute first-rate instrumentals. The major highlight, worth getting the CD for, is Gillian Welch’s version of Hartford’s rejection of modernity, “In Tall Buildings.” It’s a great song. Welch’s wistfulness makes it even better.