“Home Made Sugar and a Puncheon Floor,” a set of home recordings made by music icon John Hartford and fiddling legend Howdy Forrester, is the newest release from Spring Fed Records, the Grammy-winning documentary label operated by MTSU’s Center for Popular Music.
This collection of 20 previously unreleased performances preserves a repertoire of many rare old tunes that Forrester learned as a boy from his great-uncle Bob Cates in Hickman County, Tennessee.
Hartford plays banjo, Forrester fiddles, and the two share informal discussion about the tunes and their sources on the record.
Hartford, who died in 2001, was a Grammy-winning songwriter and musician in multiple genres, still revered by many today for his unique combination of bold musical innovation and reverence for Southern traditional music.
Hartford made many visits to the homes of traditional musicians, always recording their conversations and jam sessions. Some of these musicians were little known, but others, like Forrester, were quite famous.
Forrester, best known as the longtime fiddler in Roy Acuff’s band, played weekly in that capacity on the Grand Ole Opry.
The original tape is part of the Charles K. Wolfe Collection in the archives of The Center for Popular Music, one of the nation’s largest and richest repositories of research materials related to American vernacular music. The CPM is part of MTSU’s College of Media and Entertainment.
“These home recordings offer a rare aural glimpse of two iconic musicians playing the music they loved in an informal setting,” said Dr. Greg Reish, CPM director.
“These are not the pieces that Howdy played every Saturday night on the Opry, but the tunes he learned from his family and his community. That’s what makes these recordings so special.”
Grammy-winning bluegrass musician Stuart Duncan, an Academy of Country Music fiddle player of the year winner, called the CD a “must-have for anyone wanting to connect musical dots.”
Reish co-produced the new CD with Spring Fed label manager John Fabke. CPM audio specialist Martin Fisher handled the digital transfers, and MTSU recording industry professor Michael Fleming did the final mastering.
The booklet includes extensive liner notes and transcriptions of the tunes by noted Middle Tennessee contest fiddler and teacher Jim Wood, who grew up in Hickman County and knew both Hartford and Forrester.
The Center for Popular Music acquired Spring Fed Records in 2014 from the Arts Center of Cannon County.
Founded in 2002, Spring Fed Records preserves and documents the traditional music of Tennessee and the Midsouth by releasing recordings of historical and cultural importance. The label’s compilation of field recordings by pioneering African-American folklorist John Work III won a Grammy in 2008 for its liner notes by former CPM staffer Bruce Nemerov.
The Spring Fed catalog is distributed by City Hall Records of San Rafael, California. Selected titles are also available as digital downloads from Amazon.com, iTunes and CD Baby.
— Gina E. Fann (firstname.lastname@example.org)