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Two from B.F. Shelton

31 Oct

Here you go, folks. Two from the quintessential 2ftl picker, B.F. Shelton. Not much is known about the man other than that he was from Clay County, Kentucky (1902-1968) and that he was also a barber. He recorded 10 sides at the historic Bristol Sessions in July of 1927 – only four of which survive today. For many people, his version of Darlin’ Cora is the best one out there. Enjoy!

Pretty Polly

[gDGCD tuning]

Intro

Verse

Darlin’ Cora

[eCGCC tuning]

Intro

Verse

Links to these recordings can be found halfway down the “About the Style” page.

Bright Sunny South

20 Oct

(click here for tab)

[gDGCD tuning]

Also known as Sweet Sunny South, this one was first collected from a “Mrs. Lucy Cannady at Endicott, VA. Aug 23 1918” by Cecil Sharp – although there have been accounts that this one goes back even before the Civil War (1850s). The first recordings of it were done in 1927 by Red Patterson’s Piedmont Log Rollers, DaCosta Woltz’s Southern Broadcasters, and a certain Jackson Young, which is apparently a pseudonym for fiddler Ben Jarrell. Since then, dozens of people have recorded it in various settings, with different regional/individual characteristics – some major sounding & some in a minor key. I personally enjoy the minor ones so the above tab is based on the lonesome sounds of Jake Owen (son of the late Blanton Owen) and his banjo. Also worth noting is the version done by Dock Boggs in the 1960s. Dang good. Do a quick Youtube search for more.

For a great discussion about lyrics and origins, check out the threads on Mudcat Cafe: I & II

The Dying Californian

8 Oct

(click here for tab)

[gDGBD tuning]

This is arranged from the outstanding fiddling/singing of Tim Eriksen. Like much of the music he plays, this piece is found in the Sacred Harp repertoire. The term “Sacred Harp” refers to the human voice, thus the music associated with the tradition is a capella and is called shape-note singing. The Sacred Harp collection was originally published way back in 1844 by a couple of guys from the state of Georgia – B.F. White & E.J. King. To this day many groups scattered throughout North America (and Europe) continue to gather for annual or local “singings” which might last anywhere from a couple hours to a few days. In my limited experience on this planet, there are few things which compare to the experience of standing in the middle of a bunch of harmonized shape-note singers. Highly recommended.

Anyway (!)…The Dying Californian is on the top of p.410 of the Sacred Harp book and features, according to the book, “words by Kate Harris of Pascoag, R.I. in the New England Diadem and Rhode Island Temperance Pledge, 9 Feb. 1850, ‘Suggested on hearing read an extract of a letter from Captain Chase, containing the dying words of Brown Owen, who recently died on his passage to California.”‘ Here it is done ‘by the book’ (full lyrics). And for good measure, here it is as performed way down in the Arkansas Ozarks.

Enjoy!

Buffalo Gals

17 Jul

(click here for tab)

[gDGBD tuning]

Even though most people growing up in the United States learn this as a children’s song, this is another one that goes wayyyy back. According to a thread at Mudcat.org, this song was published in 1844 by a fella named John Hodges who performer under the monicker “Cool White.” The Lomaxes believed that Cool White “borrowed” it from traditional sources, and a similar tune called “Midnight Serenade” in Knauff’s Virginia Reels [pub. 1839] gives weight to this claim. It has also been suggested that the tune itself is based upon a German dance piece known as Im Grunewald ist Holzauktion, and while there are certainly close similarities between the two, the earliest date I have been able to track down for the German piece is 1872. Who knows. I defer to the previously mentioned discussion at the Mudcat Cafe for more information.

The earliest recording (as “Alabama Gal”) comes from Fiddlin’ John Carson [OKeh 40204, 1924], for those keeping track. For a particularly strange, yet hugely popular version check out the late Malcolm McLaren’s 1983 recording.

Enjoy!

Wild Bill Jones

1 Jul

(click here for tab)

[fDGCD tuning]

Wild Bill Jones was first recorded by Eva Davis back in 1924 and since then has become one of the most popular songs in the Bluegrass and traditional Old Time repertoire. The earliest occurrence of the song is way back in 1916 at which time it was collected from a woman named Miss Viney Norton (Big Laurel, NC). From what I can tell, the prevailing version among pickers these days is based on the version played by the Stanley Brothers. I much prefer the different versions done by Granville Bowlin, Virgil Anderson, and Dock Boggs. The tab for this post is based on the playing of Dock Boggs – although he played it in open G tuning (gDGBD).

Check the .mp3 section for more material. Enjoy!

Whiskey Before Breakfast

20 May

(click here for tab)

[aDADE tuning]

Here is another one sent to me by Clay Black. Clay has this to say about his arrangement (and I totally agree):

Whiskey Before Breakfast is a good workshop tune becasuse most clawhammer players are familiar with it and this simple arrangement permits them to concentrate on the mechanics of thumb picking without worrying so much about the melody.

The origins of the tune itself are disputed, but it seems the conventional opinion is that (Manitoba) Canadian fiddler Andy de Jarlis composed it in the mid-twentieth century. Youtube has a “video” of the recording. There are, however, reports that de Jarlis learned it from an elderly Métis fiddler at an all-night drinking & fiddling session during which it was the last tune they played before passing out. This is usually how I learn fiddle tunes as well, so I’ll go with the latter theory. Regardless, it is a fantastic tune which was enthusiastically adopted into the canon of Old Time fiddle tunes in the US (and abroad). Perhaps the most famous version of the tune is from guitarist Norman Blake. Check it out.

Thanks for another good one, Clay.

Policeman

23 Apr

(click here for tab)

[gDGBD tuning]

From what I can tell, this one comes to us from Tommy Jarrell of Surrey County, North Carolina. Tommy was, hands down, the most influential old time musician for scores of “young fogies” in the 1970s & 80s seeking a link to the traditional music styles of the Southern Mountains. His hospitality was legendary and his bowing style impenetrable. The song Policeman can be heard on the album “Stay All Night…And Don’t Go Home” by Oscar Jenkins, Fred Cockerham, and Tommy Jarrell. It seems to have become a staple among the new crop of Old Time string bands who usually perform it at rip-roaring tempos (Foghorn String Band, The Morgantown Rounders, and Dirk Powell to name a few). Perhaps the most interesting version (to me anyways) comes from Dan Gellert and can be heard on his album “Waitin’ on the Break of Day.” Google the lyrics…they make the song!

Lastly, if anybody out there is unfamiliar with the music of Tommy Jarrell, go HERE for a nice collection of free field recordings (including Policeman) of him fiddling, singing, and picking the banjo. Enjoy!

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