(Note: this post is part of a series.)
Were it not for the influence of Sam Bush, I might never have discovered John Hartford. The irony, of course, is that according to Sam, without John there would be no “newgrass” music in the first place. (Thoughts like that are just weird to me.) And now I understand much better why it is so difficult to “describe” Hartford to someone who doesn’t already get it. He was the very definition of quirky, and sometimes you need all the context to understand just how powerful his reach is, and has been. In some ways, it’s like trying to explain the depth of Zeppelin beyond the context of “Whole Lotta Love” and “Stairway to Heaven”.
This song ain’t newgrass. “Gum Tree Canoe” is a folk song, done straight up. It’s lovely, especially under Hartford’s voice, and contains perhaps the most romantic metaphor for “partners in life and beyond” that I have heard. (When Cathy and I were planning our wedding, we didn’t really have an “our song” in the way some people do, so we had to go look for something to play for the first dance. In looking, I ran across Hartford’s 1984 recording, and one listen was enough to know I’d found exactly what I needed. Oh yeah!