A legend pays tribute to a legend; SAM BUSH’s new album RADIO JOHN is a shout out to the great JOHN HARTFORD! It’s finally out on vinyl!

International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame member SAM BUSH pays tribute to his longtime friend and collaborator John Hartford on Radio John: Songs of John Hartford. Bush’s first album since 2016, Radio John is his heartfelt tribute to his hero and mentor, digging deep into the American roots music eccentric’s vast catalog to pull out personal favorite songs, including some he played with Hartford himself in the 1970s. Bush plays every instrument—acoustic guitar, mandolin, banjo, electric bass, fiddle—on every cut except the big, full band finale “Radio John,” the collection’s one original song and a tribute to Hartford that Bush wrote with John Pennell.

Order your copy on vinyl LP or CD HERE.

In the liner notes, Bush recalls a lifetime of Hartford fandom starting the day he heard Hartford playing three-finger banjo on The Wilburn Brothers Show on a Saturday afternoon in 1967. He first saw him in concert two years later, in Bush’s hometown of Bowling Green, Kentucky: “I was in the high school marching band my senior year. We did our rainy football halftime performance and I hightailed it to E.A. Diddle Arena in my muddy band uniform in time for his show.” Within just a few years, Bush’s new band New Grass Revival was opening up for Hartford and often joining him onstage performing the songs off Hartford’s pioneering 1971 album Aereo-Plain. The jam sessions continued until Hartford’s passing in 2001.

Today, Hartford’s best-known song is probably “Gentle on My Mind,” made a hit by Glen Campbell in 1967. But as Bush demonstrates on Radio John, Hartford’s catalog goes far deeper. The early success of “Gentle on My Mind” freed Hartford from a need to concern himself with the quotidian preoccupations of a performer—or a songwriter—just trying to keep a roof over his head and a biscuit on the table. So he meandered through the 1970s and ’80s, scattering musical and non-musical nuggets everywhere he went: consider the startlingly creative fusion of 1971’s Aereo-Plain or the solo-performance run that began with 1976’s Mark Twang, which won the GRAMMY award for Best Ethnic or Traditional Folk Recording—though it could be seen as traditional only through an act of imagination. By 1990, his precisely modulated drawl had become such a rich, expressive vehicle that documentary filmmaker Ken Burns drew on it for narration in his Civil War series. A decade later, Hartford helped spearhead the early 21st-century eruption of roots music into the mass consciousness, exemplified by 2000’s O Brother, Where Art Thou?, which featured several of his songs and was released shortly before he died.

Like Hartford, Bush is liable to turn up almost anywhere. A pioneer in the ʼ70s and ʼ80s progressive bluegrass movement sometimes termed “newgrass,” he recorded with icons including Doc Watson and Emmylou Harris and younger stars like Garth Brooks and Shania Twain. He won a Lifetime Achievement Award for Instrumentalist from the Americana Music Association in 2009 and was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame in 2020. In 2010, Kentucky officially named his hometown of Bowling Green the “Birthplace of Newgrass” and him the “Father of Newgrass.”

Bush first conceived of the album on a pre-pandemic trip with his wife to the Florida panhandle. He had brought an array of instruments and began playing around with songs from the vast Hartford catalog. He intended to record demos for his band, but, as he jokes, “in true Sam style, lack of engineering skills and patience, I was having a rough time overdubbing by myself.” When he mentioned his lack of home recording skills to a friend, Donnie Sundal, co-owner of Neptone Recording Studio in Destin, Florida, Sundal soon showed up at their beach carriage house dragging along all the equipment for a professional session. “In no time, we were laying down tracks (and he engineered),” Bush writes. “Only then did I realize this could be a true solo endeavor of my love affair with John Hartford’s music.” When the pandemic hit, he gave those recordings a final polish with sound engineer Rick Wheeler.

In his song selections, Bush focuses not on Hartford the curator and impresario of fiddle tunes, but rather on Hartford the singer-songwriter, who came to Nashville as a colleague of writers such as Kris Kristofferson and Tom T. Hall, shaking up Music Row with distinctive songs that channeled the growing tides of the counterculture into their publishing houses and studios. To do so, he digs beyond than “Gentle on My Mind” to mine songs of heartbreak (“A Simple Thing as Love”) and humor (“Granny Wontcha Smoke Some Marijuana”). Many of the songs Bush had played on with Hartford originally, and in the liner notes he shares memories of listening with him to the Mahavishnu Orchestra (“John McLaughlin”) and helping him rerecord songs he had first related to as a kid growing up on a farm (“In Tall Buildings”).

Radio John is a testament to the impact Hartford had on American traditional music as a songwriter, an instrumentalist, and, most importantly, someone who fostered the careers of musicians like Bush and countless others reinventing roots music in the last half of the 20th century. More simply, Bush calls it “my love letter to John Hartford’s music that I hold so dear.”

Radio John is out now on CD and LP. Order your copy today and check out these other Sam Bush releases!

  • Get Ready To Get Down @ The Marcus King Band Family Reunion, Aug. 24-25!!
    The Marcus King Band Family Reunion is back after a five-year hiatus, and this time, it’s set to go down right here in the blues giant’s home state! Offering a taste of the best the south has to offer, from music to Carolina BBQ, Marcus King has curated a two-day festival sure to bring […]
  • Brad Mehldau Double Hitter Out Now Via Nonesuch!
                  Grammy Award winning jazz pianist, composer, and arranger, Brad Mehldau, has two new albums, After Bach II and Après Fauré, out on Nonesuch Records!   Following 2018’s stunning After Bach, After Bach II continues Mehldau’s […]
  • TECHNICS SL-D202 turntable
    The semi-auto SL-D202 was introduced in 1981 as the replacement of the D2 model. They continued the tradition of employing a high quality direct drive motor and great sounding tone arm. The cue control was moved to the outside of the table for easier access. This turntable has been professionally […]
  • TECHNICS SLD2 TURNTABLE w/ custom paint job
    The semi-auto SL-D2 is the workhorse of the Technics family. Time has proven this model extremely reliable due to its high-quality direct drive motor and tone arm. This unit features a unique (and very handsome) custom paint job and has been professionally inspected, refurbished, lubricated and has […]
  • Yamaha 5-disc Carousel CD Player
    Tons of programming options and 18bit digital conversion (w/ 8 X oversampling)! Heavy duty unit and professionally inspected and refurbished!     […]
  • Thorens MM 008 Pre-amplifier
    Audiophile grade phono pre-amplifier, extremely clean sound and as reliable and well-constructed as they get! High versatility and ease of use: the MM 008 phono preamplifier can be adjusted to match the tonal characteristics of your pick-up cartridge, ranging from an MM setting to three different […]
  • Technics SLDD2 Turntable
    Technics direct drive quality at an affordable price! The great thing about Technics is they made quality affordable tables that were never “cheap”. This semi-auto SL-DD2 is one of the easiest turntables to operate. Simply move the tone arm over to start the record! This turntable has been […]
  • Technics SLD20 Turntable
    The semi-auto SL-D20 was the most popular of the p-mount turntables. They are ultra-reliable and feature a high-quality direct drive motor. This table has been thoroughly tested and is operating at 100%! Has been fitted with a like new audio technical stylus, Plug and play!       […]
  • Onkyo TX SR 876 Receiver
    Modern AV receiver with plenty of inputs and outputs and turntable READY with on-board phono pre-amplifier! Robust power for surround or otherwise at 140 watts PER CHANNEL! 140 watts x 7 into 8 ohms (20-20,000 Hz) at 0.05% THD. THX® Ultra2 Plus certification new THX listening modes for optimized […]
  • Haffler XL 280 Power Amplifier
    Legendary dedicated power amplifier, pure audiophile grade sound (No gain or tone control needed!), and near non-existent self noise! This is one of the very best amplifiers that Hafler made. It offers 145 watts per channel into 8 ohms, and is stable down to 1 ohm, offering 325 watts for short […]
  • Audio Research LS1 Line Stage Amplifier
    No tone adjustment needed, pure sound for the sound purist! The Audio Research LS1 Line Stage Amplifier is designed to accommodate music lovers who exclusively use line-level input sources — digital or analog — for the reproduction and enjoyment of music in their home audio systems. In technology, […]
    The BDP-S580 has built-in Wi-Fi and the best current lineup of streaming-media services, including Netflix, Amazon Instant, Hulu Plus, Vudu, Slacker, and CinemaNow! […]
    The Technics SL-D30 is a fantastic direct drive turntable featuring the same sound specifications as the SL-D3 model (Which is usually considerably higher in price) […]
    This unit has been completely refurbished including lubrication and calibration! Includes vintage Audio Technica cartridge with OEM stylus! […]
    The Technics SL-D3 is the FULLY AUTOMATIC version of the SL-D2 which is regarded as the workhorse of the Technics family. […]
    The Technics SL-D2 has been considered the workhorse of the Technics line of turntables for decades. […]
    The Technics SL-D1 turntable is a FULL MANUAL version of the legendary SL-D2, this model has been regarded as a “tank” and “indestructible” among hi-fi enthusiasts for decades. […]
    The Sansui S2000 speakers have been highly regarded in the hi-fi community for decades and for good reason! […]
    Very nice Blu-Ray player, with remote! Enjoy 3D Blu-ray Disc movies in Full HD 1080p--also supports standard Blu-ray Disc movies in HD and upscales DVDs to near HD quality. […]
  • RCA 45-EY-2 45rpm TURNTABLE
    The RCA 45-EY-2 is an AC operated 3 tube automatic phonograph with mono amplifier and speaker.  The turntable is a 45 RPM, model RP-190-1, which holds up to twelve 7 inch fine groove records. Uses crystal pickup with medium output voltage. Also uses Qty(1) PM Elliptical 4″ x 6″ speaker. […]
    The BX-300 incorporates a wealth of original Nakamichi technology such as the Discrete Three Head system, a Direct Drive Asymmetrical, Diffused Resonance Dual Capstan Transport etc. […]
    This NAD 7020E is an absolutely rock solid receiver, 2x20watts and AM/FM receiver is perfect for bookshelf and medium sized speakers. To those familiar with the NAD 3020E Stereo Amp, this unit employs much of the same technology!       […]