Bruce Langhorne, one of the most in-demand session guitarists of the ‘60s, is probably best known for playing on several of Bob Dylan’s best records, including Bringing It All Back Home and Blonde on Blonde. He actually played with just about everybody in the late ‘60s folk-rock universe - Fred Neil, Joan Baez, Tom Rush, John Sebastian, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Odetta, Richie Havens and others. Langhorne performed live with Dylan at Newport, produced records for Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and was the real-life inspiration for “Mr. Tamborine Man.” His crowning achievement however may be the soundtrack he composed for Peter Fonda’s directorial debut, The Hired Hand. Surprisingly, for such a seasoned veteran of the booming folk scene, this was Langhorne’s first solo record.
Recorded in the garage of his Laurel Canyon home in 1969 using an Echoplex and a two-track Revox tape machine, the album features an assortment of period instruments from the old west - fiddle, dulcimer, recorder, banjo, upright piano, harmonica and Langhorne’s National steel string guitar. The spacey, hypnotizing score was a perfect match for Fonda’s atmospheric western and along with Vilmos Zigmond’s stunning cinematography and some top-notch performances from Warren Oates, Verna Bloom and poet Michael McClure, heavily contributed to the film’s underground success.
The movie was part of Universal’s “semi-independent‘ series in which the studio, hoping to score the next
Easy Rider, turned five young filmmakers loose equipped with small budgets and complete artistic control. Sadly, The Hired Hand didn’t go over so well with mainstream audiences (although American Graffiti, another Universal “semi-independent” feature, certainly did). Nevertheless, both the film and Langhorne’s score have lived on as cult classics.