CD Review: Robert Ellis & Courtney Hartman “Dear John- a Tribute to the Songs of John Hartford”

Posted: November 27, 2017 in Music
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DearJohn-LPCover copyRobert Ellis and Courtney Hartman are two singer-songwriters that have found a love for Folk music. By themselves, the two musicians have been creating their own styles of the musical genre. Ellis is currently promoting a Self-Titled Album released on Nine West Records that features eleven tracks of music. At the same time, Hartman is promoting her Nothing We Can Say EP that features six tracks of music. These two relative newcomers found themselves meeting backstage while performing at a music festival back in 2013. That meeting led to the two musicians discovering a mutual admiration for the music of John Hartford, the singer-songwriter who was known for his Bluegrass, Country and Folk-flavored songs that were created between the early fifties and 2001 when he passed away. Eventually, the two separate musicians joined up to create a ten-song tribute album that features ten songs from the career of John Hartford. The new album from Robert Ellis and Courtney Hartman is entitled Dear John – a Tribute to the Songs of John Hartford.

The new tribute release of John Hartford’s music from Robert Ellis and Courtney Hartman features the two musicians as they sing and play their guitars. The simplicity of the guitar/voice combination from the two singers gives the album a gentleness that matches up well with the style of Hartford’s original compositions. With the new recordings of Hartford’s music created by Ellis and Hartman using only guitars, the new versions not only give Hartford’s songs new life, they also make each song feel fresh.

Dear John – a Tribute to the Songs of John Hartford begins with the song “Old Time River Man”. Originally, the song (fully-titled “Where Does an Old Time River Man Go”) was recorded by Hartford as he played the tune on banjo. The new version by Ellis and Hartman was created using guitars. And that guitar approach breathes new life into the track, making the song by the duo feel unique. The song also features both musicians as they sing the lyrics together. The double-layered vocal add yet another element to the track as the voices from the two singers blend well together in the melody of the words.

With the track “Them Way Long Time Ago Times,” the wit of Hartford is brought out well with Ellis and Hartman’s version of the track. The song’s lyrics have a fun, light feel that mixes well with the acoustic guitars on the track. The music has the same light feel that is featured in the vocals from the duo. The track ends up seemingly flying by as the listener allows the track to play out.

The Dear John release continues with the song “Gentle On My Mind”. Perhaps one of the most well-known songs from Hartman, “Gentle On My Mind” became a hit for Glenn Campbell back in 1967 and again in 1968 to ultimately end up being a Top 10 song on the Easy Listening charts. The new version of the song finds Robert Ellis and Courtney Hartman creating a version of the song that pays homage to the original Campbell hit. The two voices from Ellis and Hartman blend well together on this track. Having been released as the first single off of Dear John – a Tribute to the Songs of John Hartford, the track “Gentle On My Mind” is easily one of the best songs on the release.

Robert Ellis and Courtney Hartman’s new release continues with the song “Right in the Middle of Falling for You”. With this track, the duo makes a choice of slowing the pace of the track down. The slower pace and easier feel of the music adds an even stronger Folk flavor to the track while also increasing the romantic feel to the lyrics of the song. While the previous tracks also feature both Ellis and Hartman singing the lyrics, “Right in the Middle of Falling for You” comes off as a duet. Like the duo’s version of “Gentle on My Mind,” this song ends up being a shining moment on the Dear John – a Tribute to the Songs of John Hartford release.

After four song that featured both of the artists combing their vocals on the lyrics to the songs, Robert Ellis finally takes the lead on vocals for one track. On “Here I Am in Love Again,” the unmistakable feel of Country music comes through in the picking on the guitars on the track. About halfway through the song, the vocals from Courtney Hartman help to add the dual vocal delivery feel that listeners have grown familiar with from the earlier tracks.

The track of “Delta Queen Waltz” shows off the playing abilities of Robert Ellis and Courtney Hartman on their guitars. Together, the two instruments intertwine nicely to create the melody of the track while the vocals from both Ellis and Hartman bring the lyrics to life. The easy pace of the track makes for a perfect song to dance to. The track is one of the best for showing off the talents of both of the singer-songwriters. Singer-songwriters Robert Ellis and Courtney Hartman have created one of the best tribute albums to be released in a long time.

The ten tracks that make up the Dear John – a Tribute to the Songs of John Hartford release combine to make a great tribute to one of the greatest songwriters of the 20th Century. If you are a fan of John Hartford, or you have become a fan of either Robert Ellis or Courtney Hartman, this release definitely deserves to be included in your music collection.

To hear a sample from the release, check out the song “Gentle On My Mind”.

For more information, check out the PR firm for the album, Grandstand Media & Management.

The Dear John – a Tribute to the Songs of John Hartford album is being released with the help of the Refuge Foundation for the Arts, a non-profit organization which provides sanctuary for the pursuit of creative expression through music and art. To check out the Refuge Foundation for the Arts, click on the link.

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