Monthly Archives: August 2015


Whiteface calfThis mercurial old-time tune was composed in the 1980s by North Carolina fiddler/luthier Joe Thrift, who named it after a favourite calf. It was first recorded by Joe’s band the Red Hots in 1989, and released on their album Ready to Roll.

A three-part tune, key Em (fiddles in standard tuning). Though it’s usually played fast, it’s not too complicated if you break it down – and it’s such a great tune to play!

Two fiddle videos: first Joe himself (audio plus stills), and then a very clear, slightly slower video of Rachel Eddy (who featured in the previous Fiddletails old-time post).


Joe Thrift (fiddle)


(‘Joe Thrift plays “Whiteface”’ YouTube video, 2.56. Posted by dbadagna, 16 Jun 2010.


Rachel Eddy (fiddle)

Note that Rachel has tweaked the C part slightly to break up the repeats.


(‘Rachel Eddy – Whiteface’ YouTube video, 2.17. Posted by Raymond Whiteway-Roberts, 19 Apr 2013.


Further help learning Whiteface:

The old-time database Old Time Frederick has a very clear fiddle audio file from Centralia Parlour Pickers, as well as useful multi-instrumental chord suggestions and audio/video links.


joe thrift luthier imageAs well as being a wonderful fiddler, Joe Thrift is an acclaimed luthier working in Dobson, North Carolina. You can see more about his violins here.







racheleddy guitar

Rachel Eddy is a great player and teacher of old-time fiddle, banjo and guitar. Watch out for her various workshops in the UK! Her latest CD is Nothin’ but Corn. (Also featured in Fiddletails post Road to Malvern, 16 Aug 2015.)





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Filed under American old-time, American old-time/modern

Fiddle, viola, cello – Stop Press!

Stour valleyDon’t miss out on Laurel Swift’s upcoming Folk Fiddle Retreat for violin, viola and cello players, set in the beautiful Stour Valley. Dates 4-6 September – and only a few places left! Details and booking here.

(I’m going – but don’t let that put you off!)


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Idbury Hill

The many lives of an English hill and its tune: morris meets mediaeval meets mazurka in this varied trio of videos – topped off by a slow audio teaching file.

Idbury Hill is an Iron Age hillfort near the village of Bledington in Oxfordshire, England. The tune is a Cotswold Morris dance tune originating in the village.Charles Benfield

Charles Benfield (1841-1929), fiddler with the Bledington Morris in the second half of the nineteenth century. (Portrait by A. van Anrooy*)


Lester Bailey (melodeon)


(‘Idbury Hill, Bledington – Lester – Melodeon’ YouTube video, 2:02. Posted by Lester Bailey, 27 Sep 2012.


Paul Martin (Dunholmpiper) (vielle/mediaeval fiddle)

Lively version – with a belting rhythm section! Paul says he plays mostly in GDGD or GCGD (but nb this is a 5-stringed fiddle…) [Correction: Paul’s instrument is a 4-stringed medieval fidel – see his comment below.]


(‘Idbury Hill’ YouTube video, 2:12. Posted by Dunholmpiper, 13 Oct 2014.


Anahata (melodeon)

Meet Idbury Hill the mazurka! Wonderful resetting of the tune, followed by the original morris version.


(‘Idbury Hill’ YouTube video, 2:56. Posted by anahatamelodeon, 14 Mar 2012.–KYRn4YU)


Laurel Swift (fiddle)

Slow audio file for Laurel’s beginners’ fiddle class at the EDFSS Saturday Folk Music Workshops, Cecil Sharp House, London




Lester Bailey, Anahata, Paul Martin (as Dunholmpiper), and Laurel Swift all have websites/channels bursting at the seams with great tunes.

See also Fiddletails 8 July for details of Laurel’s forthcoming fiddle and multi-instrumental retreats.


* Reproduced under Creative Commons license  CC for Idbury Hill from The Traditional Tune Archive, which has fascinating notes on the history of the tune and the characters associated with it, including a lovely story about Charles Benfield and his fiddle.





Filed under English folk/traditional

Road to Malvern

A lovely crooked ‘new’ old-time tune that’s becoming more widely known. The recording below is from the Stockholm session founded by West Virginia old-time fiddle, banjo and guitar player Rachel Eddy.

The tune was composed by another Virginia fiddler, Jim Childress, and named for his wife who was born in Malvern, Arkansas. Jim originally recorded it on the 2004 CD Turkey Sag with old-time stringband Uncle Henry’s Favorites. He plays it cross-tuned (AEAE), but it works very well in standard tuning too.


Happy Wednesday Oldtime Jam, Stockholm, Sweden



You can hear more great tunes from the Stockholm sessions at Bengt von Andreae’s Soundcloud page here.


Turkey Sag is available from  Jim Childress’s website, from Uncle Henry’s Favorites, and online, including from Amazon where you can also hear a sample of Road to Malvern as originally played.


rachel eddyRachel Eddy plays fantastic old-time fiddle, banjo and guitar, and is a brilliant teacher – sometimes in the UK, if you’re lucky enough to catch her. Her latest CD is Nothin’ but Corn.






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The Miller of Perth

Boldwood play mainly forgotten tunes from 18th century England, painstakingly researched and liberated from lost manuscripts and the extraordinary (to us) phenomenon of dance fans. This 3/2 hornpipe was discovered by Becky Price in an unpublished handwritten manuscript in the British Library.



Becky Price (accordion), Miranda Rutter (fiddle, viola), Matthew Coatsworth (fiddle, viola)


(From Boldwood’s 2012 unreleased second album Mudlarking, available on Soundcloud here.)


Boldwood-Dancing-Master-front-cover-300x210The dots for The Miller of Perth are published in The Boldwood Dancing Master, available from the Boldwood website – along with a brilliant new CD – and also on  Matthew Coatsworth’s fascinating website ‘English and French Music: an online manuscript’.

For more information and another great Boldwood tune, see Fiddletails post Jackson’s Shaving Brush (June 2015).




Filed under English folk/traditional