Tag Archives: gDGBD tuning

The Dying Californian

8 Oct

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[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!

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Buffalo Gals

17 Jul

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[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!

Policeman

23 Apr

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[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!

Sourwood Mountain

14 Apr

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[gDGBD tuning]

Sourwood Mountain is another one of those old songs that stretch back to an unknown source and was one of the earliest song/dance pieces collected in the beginning of the last century. The location of the Sourwood Mountain in the song is disputed, but there appear to be a peak in Jefferson County, TN and a ridge in Russel County, VA of the same name. Most people who keep track of this stuff note that it’s possible that the tune (and attached song) come from Sourwood Mountain, Massachusetts. Either way, the earliest recording comes from Tennessee fiddler Uncle Am Stuart (1853-1927), who at the age of 71 put it down for Vocalion Records during their frantic attempts to get a slice of the hillbilly pie after the huge success of Fiddlin’ John Carson’s recordings for Okeh a year earlier. The tune was also recorded by Dave Macon, The Skillet Lickers, The Hill Billies, Wade Mainer, Melvin Wine, Tommy Jarrell and a few dozen other notable characters from the Ozarks to the Blue Ridge.

From the Bluegrass Picker’s Songbook: “The tune was mentioned by William Byrne who described a chance encounter with West Virginia fiddler ‘Old Sol’ Nelson during a fishing trip on the Elk River. The year was around 1880, and Sol, whom Byrne said was famous for his playing ‘throughout the Eld Valley from Clay Courthouse to Sutton as…the Fiddler of the Wilderness,’ had brought out his fiddle after supper to entertain.”

Cripple Creek (v2.0)

27 Feb

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[gDGBD tuning]

Here’s another, easier arrangement of Cripple Creek that I threw together for a friend of mine a little while back. As it stands, I don’t have an .mp3 version to share, but I’ll get on it as soon as I’m able. Check the .pdf section for a printable tab.

For the heck of it, here’s a link to the “original” post of Cripple Creek from March, 2010 in case you missed it.

Jack Wilson

27 Feb

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[gDGBD tuning]

Here’s another guest contribution to the site; this time from a fella by the name of Clay Black. I like his arrangement quite a bit and I think folks looking to get into the 2ftl style will find this one to be very friendly. I have say it’s thanks to generous folks like Clay and our previous contributors that this site is able to stay afloat when I get bogged down with my graduate studies (one more month!). Once again, I’ll let the arranger do the talking (thanks again, Clay):

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I did some thumb picking workshops at the Florida Folk Festival a while back.   Here is one of the tabs I passed out.   Jack Wilson is a Kentucky tune normally played in D with the banjo tuned aDADE but it just sort of falls into place in thumb picking as an open G (gDGBD) or A (aEAC#E) piece.  Nothing fancy here but beginners can learn this version in about 5 minutes so it’s great workshop material.  It’s easy enough on the fiddle in these keys too.

This tune is usually credited to fiddler John Salyer and banjoist Claude Helton based on their 1941 home recording but it appears to have been relatively common in the Magoffin County, Kentucky area.  J.M. Mullins recorded a banjo tune of the same name for Alan Lomax and the Library of Congress in 1937, four years before the Salyer/Helton recording, and I’ve heard that early recording artist Buell Kazee, also a Magoffin County native, played it on banjo and sang verses. ”

That’s Where My Money Goes

6 Jan

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[gDGBD tuning]

Here’s another guest-post from Sam Rubera (thanks, Sam!). For the strict thumb-lead player, you’ll notice that there are a few instances in Sam’s arrangement when the index finger picks melody notes on the 3rd string. Great exercise, in my opinion. I’ll let Sam do the rest of the talking:

______________________________________________________________
Here’s one for you:

The song is “That’s Where My Money Goes”, stolen from the Supremest of the Supreme Beings (or “pretty top shit”, as we say in Australia), Uncle Dave Macon (Who once described himself [likely due to the influence of George Hay] as “banjoist and songster, liking religion and meeting, farming and thanking God for all the bountiful gifts he has bestowed upon us.”), from the 1951 recordings entitled “Uncle Dave: At Home”. This song was also recorded by Earl Johnson, Frank Stokes, Mississippi John Hurt, and John Jackson.

The tune is rather straight forward, it uses a different arrangement of the scale Boggs uses for his “Wild Bill Jones”. My arrangement is also rather straightforward, as usual, ask if’n you’ve got any questions.

You should probably play it loudly and quickly with lots of of strumming and yelping:

“That’s where my money goes
To buy silk camisoles
Nobody’s business
But my own

My girl, she’s nearly four
She works in a grocery store
Nobody’s business
But my own

She runs a weenie stand
Way down in No Man’s Land
Nobody’s business
But my own

We are the Jubilee
We drink good whiskey
Nobody’s business
But my own

It’s nobody’s business
Nobody’s business
Nobody’s business
If I do

Sometimes I ramble
Get drunk and gamble
Nobody’s business
But mine

One of these mornings, I’ll wake up crazy
Kill my wife and eat my baby
Nobody’s business
If I do

Morphine’s gonna run me crazy
Cocaine’s gonna kill my baby
Pretty girls gonna cause me to
Lose my mind”

– et cetera