A surprisingly jaunty melody, for a tune named after the 19th century Ozark Mountains foundry that produced iron for American Civil War canonballs.
Before teaching a fascinating fiddle masterclass, legendary Missouri musician and steamboat pilot John Hartford regales us with tales of Missouri fiddler Roy Wooliver (1896-1964), with whom the tune is identified.
Want to cut straight to the tune? John begins playing at 2.40.
As the northern hemisphere days draw in, there’s the promise of the winter solstice and that first imperceptible swing back towards the light. To celebrate the season, here’s a blithe spirit of a tune from the Civil War era, recorded on a summery backyard deck, and posted in chill December in time to get it down and playable for Christmas.
(I was unable to contact the musicians; I hope they’ll forgive being fiddletailed without permission – it was just too delightful to resist.)
A panoramic view from the top of Lookout Mountain, overlooking Chattanooga, February 1864, by George N Barnard.
The haunting Farewell Trion began life as a two-part tune composed by fiddler Joe Blalock (b.1854) on his return home to Mentone, Alabama, after he’d been laid off from the mill in Trion, Georgia. Joe’s great-nephew Mack Blalock (1914-1987) got the tune from him, and passed it on to acclaimed present-day fiddler James Bryan, his neighbour in the Lookout Mountain region of Alabama. In the 1980s, James added the third part that we hear in these two gorgeous renderings.
You can find more background on the tune’s origins and the Trion mill at banjohangout. I’ve been unable to find any way to contact James Bryan; I do hope he won’t mind too much that I’ve Fiddletailed him without permission.
James Bryan (fiddle)
Recorded at MerleFest, 1993, accompanied by Carl Jones and Tom Jackson
Get your contra dancing shoes on for this deceptively simple ear-worm of a tune from the playing of Kentucky fiddler Everett Kays.
Here are three versions.
Take 1: Everett Kays lays the tune out at dance speed with a stringband for the original 1973 field recording (now in the Berea College Southern Appalachian Archives*).
Takes 2 and 3: Seattle-based fiddler Greg Canote plays two slow teaching versions – first a music camp video; second, a slightly more uptempo audio track from the Canote Brothers’ Seattle stringband class.
Key of G, standard tuning on all three recordings. Choose whichever speed suits you best for tunecatching, and for playing along with once you’ve got it down.
Everett Kays (fiddle), accompanied by unnamed musicians
Bid farewell to sweet October with this beautiful composition by Anna Gustavsson – one half of American/Swedish duo Premo & Gustavsson, whose US tour I featured earlier this week.
It’s also a great chance to hear a nyckelharpa, the iconic Swedish instrument famously played by 18th-19th century master nyckelharpist Carl Ersson Bössa (Byss-Kalle), composer of last week’s Fiddletails post.
Premo & Gustavsson
Laurel Premo (fiddle), Anna Gustavsson (nyckelharpa)
A great follow-up to yesterday’s Swedish tune: Anna Gustavsson on nyckelharpa, Laurel Premo on gourd banjo and fiddle, as they launch their new CD I Walked Abroad. This duo is really special – catch their fabulous concerts and workshops wherever you can.
I’ll be featuring a track later this week. In the meantime, here’s a reminder from an earlier Fiddletails post: Sally in the Garden
Monday already? So what better way to start the week than with this breezy Old Timey/Ragtimey tune – originally from renowned Virginia fiddler ‘Uncle’ Charlie Osborne (1890-1992), who played left-handed on a conventional right-handed fiddle, and was famous for his fiddling from the age of 15 until his death at the age of 101.
First up, Adam Hurt and Beth Williams Hartness lay out a jaunty, fluid version at dance speed, along with some great banjo ornamentations over subtle fingerstyle guitar. The second video – a slightly slower rendering showcasing the fiddle’s double-stopping and dulcitar/strumstick fingering – is by Danish Old Time afficionados TheDeleuran Enevoldsen Duo, who learned the tune from a recording of Uncle Charlie Osborne.
The Hornpipe, by John Durang, watercolor from his Memoir, Courtesy of the York County History Center
Meet John Durang (1768-1822), dancer, acrobat, actor and performer with Ricketts’s Circus across the northeastern United States and into Canada. Born in Pennsylvania of German and French parents, he was George Washington’s favourite dancer.
The tune was composed for Durang in new York in 1785 by Mr. Hoffmaster, his German violin teacher.
Here are several different versions from North American musical cultures: two teaching videos (American and Canadian); a performance video (traditional African-American string band); and archive reel-to-reel audio of a West Virginia fiddler.
Choose your favourite to learn!
Katie Henderson (fiddle)
America: teaching video from Katie’s encyclopaedic New Tune A Day Youtube site.
West Virginia fiddler Rachel Eddy retitled her ‘favourite C tune’ – commonly known as Fourteen (or Sixteen, or Eighteen) Days in Georgia. There are many variations on the tune, so here’s just this one wonderful rendering from a 2016 concert in Peninsula, Ohio.
Every couple of weeks or so I feature a tune that's caught my fancy – audio/video clips of brilliant musicians playing great, perhaps uncommon tunes to learn by ear. Most are from the English and American Old-time traditions; some hail from other musical worlds ‒ Scandi, perhaps, or French. But whatever you play ‒ fiddles or frets, free-reeds or fipples ‒ I hope you enjoy catching these wonderful tunes!