Robert Ellis and Courtney Hartman Team Up for Dear John – a Tribute to the Songs of John Hartford.
Due December 8 via Refuge Foundation for the Arts.Tour Kicks off at Cactus Club in Austin, TX on December 9
“Utilizing the bones of the past to pave way to the future, they prove that timeless and gentle can still cut just as deep.” -Bluegrass Situation
Acclaimed singer-songwriters Robert Ellis and Courtney Hartman have teamed up for Dear John, a tribute to the songs of GRAMMY Award Winning artist John Hartford, set to be released on December 8. Last week they premiered the first single, “Gentle On My Mind. Best known for his solo performances where he would alternate between guitar, banjo, and fiddle while he tap danced and clogged on an amplified piece of plywood, John Hartford is credited as one of the founders and pioneers of newgrass, a non-traditional approach to bluegrass music, as well as known for his mastery of traditional folk music inspired by his affection of for the culture of the Mississippi River and its steamships. Dear John will be available on vinyl, CD, and as a digital download and can be pre-ordered here.
Robert Ellis and Courtney Hartman met backstage at a music festival in 2013 and first bonded over their mutual love of John Hartford songs. Dear John is the culmination of a few years’ friendship and a collection of well-known and obscure material revealing the quirky and tender sides of Hartford’s writing. The album shines a light on Hartford’s strength as a songwriter, and allows Ellis and Hartman to showcase their perfectly blended vocals and the playful back and forth of their guitar playing.
“I feel like Courtney Hartman and I must have known each other in a previous life. We share a deep love and obsession for a lot of the same music. There is a unique cross section of songwriting craft, tradition and it’s context, and musicality that we both really get excited by,” says Robert Ellis. “John Hartford is sort of the apex of this and it came as no surprise to me that he was a big influence on both of us and what we do. These songs, and playing them with Courtney really seemed to recharge my spirit in some way. Through playing these songs we are connected to each other and to John in a way that makes me feel like I’m at home.”
The album features ten of John Hartford’s songs from his 30+ record discography, including his best-known song “Gentle on My Mind” – later recorded by Glen Campbell – for which Hartford earned two GRAMMY awards for Best Folk Performance and Best Country & Western Song. Versions of the song were also recorded by Elvis Presley, Aretha Franklin, Frank Sinatra, Johnny Cash, Bing Crosby, Lucinda Williams, and most recently Alison Krauss. Through out his career, Hartford earned two additional GRAMMY awards, including Best Ethnic or Traditional Recording for his record Mark Twang, and Album of the Year for his work on the soundtrack to O Brother, Where Art Thou?. In addition, he was a regular on many television shows including Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, and The Johnny Cash Show.
John Hartford’s son Jamie noted, “They have captured a subtle part of my dad that gets overlooked way too often. Now they have an obligation to the world to get this out. I wish them much success.”
In support of the new release, Ellis and Hartman will hit the road for a limited tour kicking off on December 9 in Austin, TX at the Cactus Cafe, and ending at Stage One in Fairfield, CT on December 21. In between, they will make stops in Baton Rouge and Denver before two nights at Rockwood Music Hall in New York City.