John Hartford may be th only musician who uses microphones on his feet (Shure 545s), but then again his sprightly melodies have always had a dancing quality about them. Over the past decade, fans have grown used to seeing him armed with guitar (Gruhn Model W620), banjo (Gibson Model RB-18) and fiddle (five-string electric by Barcus Berry), testing his portable plywood (Grade A, 4 x 8) for echo with his tennis shoes (Pro-Training). It's a back-to-basics protable stage show and certainly a long way from Hollywood and the "Glen Campbell Good Time Hour," where Hartford first became a household name in the early '60s penning hits like "Gentle on My Mind."
"Catalogue," his new album (and the source of all those specifications) resues and revives nearly a dozen of the songs that Hartford has kept in his repertoire though they've not been available on record since his Warner Brothers and RCA albums started going out of print in the late '60s. If the current format is deliberately simple, it could be because Hartford's less than thrilled with the advances of technology: listen to his litany to the joyful cacaphony of the "Good Old Electric Washing Machine Circa 1943."
In his hearty woodsman's voice Hartford also celebrates "My Face" ('I don't mind it, I'm standing behind it'), "A Simple Thing As Love" and a zany Rube Goldberg set of circumstances without which "I Would Not Be Here," "Catalogue" sparkles with the songwriter's down-home wit, genial emotions and super picking, bowing and plucking. THE ALBUM: "Catalogue' (Flying Fish 259). THE SHOW: Saturday at the Birchmere, 3901 Mount Vernon Avenue, Alexandria.