Category Archives: American old-time

Bill Malley’s Barndance

 

An Old Time playing of an Irish tune by fiddler Bill Malley of County Clare, Ireland – first in a set with a stonking rendering of the upbeat E-B-E Reel, composed by Irish-American fiddler Liz Carroll.

As well as additional notes on these musicians and tunes, video-poster secondcousincurly writes a fascinating piece here on the importance of fiddle camps to American traditional music.

 

Brittany Haas, Lily Henley, Duncan Winkel, Kellen Zakula (fiddles), Natalie Haas (cello), Rene del Fierro (guitar)

This set was the encore at a private notloB Parlour Concert in Watertown, Massachusetts. Note Brittany Haas’s five-string fiddle!

 

(‘BRITTANY HAAS & FRIENDS: Bill Malley’s Barndance & E-B-E Reel’, YouTube video 6.59. Posted by secondcousincurly, 28 Aug 2013. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XMf4IjPoJJY)

 

Brittany Haas  website   Facebook

Natalie Haas  Website   Facebook

Lily Henley  website   Facebook

Duncan Winkel   Facebook  Duo with Lily Henley

Kellen Zakula  Bandcamp   Facebook

Rene del Fierro  Instagram  BandMINE

 

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

Sally In The Garden

 

Originally a bawdy ballad, there are two basic versions of this Appalachian Kentucky tune, some more crooked than others. I love Premo & Gustavsson’s rendering for the hauntingly off-world sounds from their uncommon pairing of indigenous Swedish and American folk instruments.

This version of the melody is usually played in Dm, but here it’s in Am. Fiddlers generally play it cross-tuned*. Laurel Premo says of her gourd banjo: ‘I use a version of the “double c” tuning. The gourd banjo is a few steps lower from the standard banjo tuning, but the relationships on the strings are the same as you’d find in double C.’

The tune has an interesting thread on banjohangout

*For more information on cross-tuning, see post Newt Payne’s Tune, and/or Search ‘cross-tuning’ to find other cross-tuned melodies.

 

Premo & Gustavsson

Laurel Premo (gourd banjo), Anna Gustavsson (nyckelharpa)

 

(‘Sally In The Garden – Premo & Gustavsson’ YouTube video, 4.06. Posted by Laurel Premo, 24 Aug 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0PXxOnmAnDg)

 

Album alert!

The duo will be releasing an album this autumn – and I’ll be featuring a tune from it as soon as it’s available.

In the meantime, you can find out more about their many other projects here:

Laurel Premo:  website  (Fiddletails has also featured Laurel’s acclaimed duo Red Tail Ring – use the Search box to find posts of their compelling music.)

Anna Gustavsson:  website

 

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Filed under American old-time, American traditional, Uncategorized

John Stinson’s No.2

 

Originating in the Irish reel known as John Stenson’s No.2*, this lovely tune has made the transition to a new identity in America’s Old Time tradition, where it’s mostly played as a mountain dulcimer tune.

Here are two takes by fiddler Rachel Eddy and friends: video from a yard concert (played first, followed around 5:10 by a stonking rendition of Dance All Night with a Bottle in your Hand); and a rousing audio recording from Rachel’s Stockholm Old Time session.

 

Rachel Eddy (fiddle), Kristian Herner  (banjo),  Bill Fahy (guitar)

 

(‘John Stinsons Number Two – Rachel Eddy, Kristian Herner, and Bill Fahy’ YouTube video, 8.45. Posted by Bill Fahy, 8 Jul 2010. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sAvyBV9FFCY)

 

 

Rachel Eddy (fiddle), and the players of the Happy Wednesday Oldtime Jam, Stockholm, Sweden

 

(https://soundcloud.com/bengt-von-andreae/stinsons-number-two?in=user180058408/sets/old-time-fiddle)

 

*The original tune was composed by accordion player John Stenson, of Co. Sligo, Ireland. There’s basic tune audio on The Session here,  along with information (scroll down) on its popularity from acclaimed Irish fiddler Kevin Burke’s album If The Cap Fits.

 

Rachel Eddy:  website  Facebook  YouTube

Kristian Herner:  website  Facebook

Bill Fahy:  website  blog  Facebook

 

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Old Time Billy in the Lowground

 

A great tune that deserves to be more widely known, this quirkily crooked melody was played in Franklin County, Kentucky, in the 19th century, and predates the better-known bluegrass tune that most people know as Billy In The Lowground*. The tag ‘Old Time’ was added to this version to avoid confusion with the later 20th century tune which had ‘borrowed’ the title. The origins of the title are widely debated online, with some relating it to William of Orange, others to Bonaparte or the Devil.

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I’m posting two videos by the irrepressible Canote brothers Jere and Greg: a full-on concert performance at speed, followed by a slightly slower version where Greg’s amazing fingering is more visible. Then there’s an old recording of Franklin County, Kentucky fiddler Kelly Gilbert (1895-1991), who learnt the tune from his local mentor Lewis Goins. And to finish off, a slower teaching session audio from the Canotes’ Seattle string band class to help tunecatchers nail the tune.

Played in G, in standard fiddle tuning GDAE. Dots to this version are available on the great website Old Time Fiddle Tunes, and there’s a banjo tab here.

(*For the more common version of the tune, played Old Time style, see my very first Fiddletails post in May 2015 – Anna & Elizabeth’s great video here)

 

Greg Canote (fiddle), Jere Canote (guitar), Brendan Doyle (banjo)

The Canotes take the stage with banjo player Brendan Doyle at a Fiddle Tunes Showcase Concert in 2009.

 

(‘Fiddle Tunes 2009 The Canotes playing “Old Time Billy in the Low Ground”’ YouTube video, 2.29. Posted by Randi Leach, 6 Jul 2009. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBdWeXXzj8Q)

 

Greg Canote (fiddle), Jere Canote (guitar)

Filmed during a teaching workshop at the American Banjo Camp 2009, Fort Flagler, Washington state.

 

(‘Greg & Jere Canote at the American Banjo Camp, 2009’ YouTube video 1.23. Posted by Peter Langston, 30 Sep 2009. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SutKB9NO3i4)

 

Kelly Gilbert (fiddle)

Recorded by John Harrod in June 1978.

Kelly Gilbert

 

(From the Appalachian Center Collection, Berea College Southern Appalachian Archives, John Harrod Collection.)

Hear the full Kelly Gilbert recordings here)

 

Greg (fiddle), Jere (guitar), Candy Goldman (banjo)

Slower teaching audio file of the Canotes and Candy Goldman playing, made for their Seattle stringband class.

 

 

 

For more tunes taught at the Canotes’ Seattle class, see Maya Whitmont’s astonishing archive of audio files and banjo tabs here

 Greg and Jere Canote: find out more about the Canote Brothers, including albums, gigs, and the Seattle stringband class, on their website

 For even more great tunes, see Peter Langston’s American Banjo Camp and other music videos on his YouTube channel

American Banjo Camp: 9-11 September 2016, near Seattle, Washington State. ‘87 classes, 23 scheduled jams, 2 concerts, 6 meals, 2 late-night snacks, and 2 optional sleep periods, all compressed into 50 hours!’ And it’s not just for banjos!

 

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Filed under American old-time, American traditional, Uncategorized

Horserace Rapids

 

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Red Tail Ring fiddler Laurel Premo wrote this beautiful tune about a stretch of the Paint River at Crystal Falls,  Michigan. The Michigander duo play it here in a set with 19th century traditional American tune Rueben (Rueben’s Train).

 

Red Tail Ring

Laurel Premo (fiddle), Michael Beauchamp (guitar)

Video from a performance at the Ark in Ann Arbor, Michigan, June 2014

 

(‘Red Tail Ring – Horserace Rapids/Ruebin’ YouTube video, 5.40. Posted by Red Tail Ring, 3 Nov 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FmJHqd42ujE)

 

Red Tail Ring: find videos, gigs, tour dates, and downloads of their great CDs on their website

Photograph (unattributed) of Horserace Rapids via Rachel Rushlow, Pinterest

 

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Fine Times At Our House

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Another favourite tune title! This great crooked West Virginia tune dances satisfyingly across the fiddle’s range. It’s fairly straightforward to catch by ear, but the double stopping’s a whole other ball game, so I’m posting several versions to help people find their best way in.

In order of appearance:

A string band playing the tune at speed

Two wonderful solo fiddle videos that show that pesky double-stopping fingering more clearly.

A slightly slower fiddle/banjo rendering that may help mastering the basic tune

And a bonus track – a haunting experimental recording that sent chills up my spine.

 

Key of A (mixolydian), with the fiddles cross-tuned ADAE (for more on cross-tuning, see blog post Newt Payne’s Tune)

 

As always, although this blog is fiddle-focused, the tune is intended for any instrument – I’d so love to hear it on border pipes or hurdy-gurdy!

Let’s begin with a great string-band performance setting out the tune for us.

 

Stephanie Coleman (fiddle), Adam Hurt (banjo), Beth Williams Hartness (guitar), Kellie Allen (double bass)

A rocking line-up filmed at a house concert.

 

(‘Fine Times At Our House – Stephenie Coleman, Adam Hurt, Beth Hartness, and Kellie Allen’ YouTube video, 3.30. Posted by Kabel Channel, 13 Sep 2011. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wNHoECrWKCo)

 

Scotty Leach (fiddle)

Filmed at a Seattle house concert on 31 May 2014, West Virginia fiddler Scotty leads with an introduction to the tune’s background.

 

(‘Fine Times At Our House’ YouTube video, 2.48. Posted by Doug Plummer, 4 Jun 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7W9S5Oh3FM)

 

Katie Davis Henderson (fiddle)

A very clear video from Katie’s wonderful New Tune A Day video archive.

 

(‘Fine Times At Our House (Old Time) NTAD’ YouTube video, 1.40. Posted by Katie Davis Henderson, 17 Dec 2011. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4W0MhX79Qfo)

 

Stephanie Coleman (fiddle), Adam Hurt (banjo)

A slightly slower-paced rendering from these iconic players – and great for clawhammer banjo players, too.

 

(‘Stephanie Coleman and Adam Hurt play “Fine Times At Our House”’ YouTube video, 2.51. Posted by clawhammerist, 23 Nov 2010. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6xrESpxtBm4)

 

And finally…

Scotty Leach fiddles Fine Times At Our House – ‘recorded through the mic on a pair of Apple Earbuds,’ he tells me.

Cold Mountain meets The Revenant. Enjoy!

 

 

For further information:

 

Adam Hurt: website   Facebook  YouTube channel 

Beth Hartness: Facebook

Katie Henderson: Blog (where you can also buy her e-book of NTAD tunes)  YouTube channel

Kellie Allen: singer, bassist, guitarist with the Old Time Shifters

Scotty Leach: Facebook  Email:  wefiddleboy14 [at] gmail [dot] com

Stephanie Coleman: Website   Twitter

 

 

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Stop Press! Multi-instrumental folk courses about to start

 

Folk Music Retreat with Laurel Swift

BOOKING ABOUT TO CLOSE!

Laurel’s retreats always need a pair of walking shoes as well as your instrument/s, but this one needs a torch as well! Fabulous teaching and playing in wonderful locations – can’t recommend too highly.

tannershatch

 

15-17 January

Tanner’s Hatch, Surrey

Full details and booking on Laurel Swift website

 

 

Old Time Music Course with Ed Hicks

A rare opportunity to focus on this delightful music in depth. (Warning: you may just lose your musical heart!)

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Wednesdays 7.00pm-8:30pm

13 January to 17 February

14 Bacon St, London E1 6LF

Full details and booking: Trad Academy website

 

 

 

 

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Filed under American old-time, English folk/traditional

Children Go Where I Send Thee

An old-timey Christmas carol to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy and thoroughly dancey New Year!

 

Stephanie Coleman (fiddle, vocals), Kristin Andreassen (vocals), Chris Eldridge (guitar, vocals)

 

(‘The Bluegrass Situation // HOLIDAY COUNTDOWN: Kristin Andreassen, Chris Eldridge & Stephanie Coleman’ YouTube video, 4.19. Posted by The Bluegrass Situation, 20 Dec 2013. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W7WenZQqtfU)

 

For more information on gigs, recordings etc by these lovely players/singers see:

Stephanie Coleman: www.audiomydarling.com Facebook Twitter

Kristin Andreassen: kristinandreassen.com Twitter Facebook  Instagram

Chris Eldridge: www.chriseldridge.net Facebook Twitter

 

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Granddad’s Favorite

 

This week, I’m beginning with a story: acclaimed West Virginia fiddler Ernie Carpenter talking about his fiddling heritage handed down by his father and grandfather, a maker of dugout canoes on Elk River, West Virginia.

In this fascinating 1987 reel-to-reel audio recording, Ernie tells his tale, and goes on to play one of his grandfather’s tunes – the jauntily crooked Granddad’s Favorite.

 

SheltCarpenter_medium

Ernie’s father, Shelt Carpenter, photographed around 1932.

 

 

 

 

The audio recording is followed by the video of the musical part of the same performance at the October 1987 Celebration of Traditional Music, Berea College.

And, last but by no means least, this week’s post is topped off by a wonderfully clear teaching video: Andy Fitzgibbon’s rendition of Granddad’s Favorite, as played by Ernie Carpenter.

 

You’ll notice that Granddad’s Favorite is a crooked tune, with extra bars when you least expect them. It also comes with two warnings for fiddlers:

In the recordings below, the fiddles are cross-tuned: Ernie Carpenter in GDGD, Andy Fitzgibbon in AEAE. If you’d like to try cross-tuning, you’re less likely to break a string tuning your two lower strings up to AEAE, than tuning your top two down a tone for GDGD, and then having to crank them back up again to standard/GDAE. (I speak from sad experience.)

And if you prefer to keep your fiddle in standard tuning, don’t try to copy the fingering in the video!

 

And now for our story. Are you sitting comfortably? Then Ernie will begin.

 

Ernie Carpenter (fiddle), Gerald Milnes (banjo)

Fiddle cross-tuned GDGD, key of G. (Tune at 3:20)

 

(Tune number 02 on AC-OR-005-373 in the Appalachian Center Collection, Berea College, Southern Appalachian Archives. http://dla.acaweb.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/berea/id/3114/rec/4)

 

You can watch footage of the musical part of this performance on the Berea College Southern Appalachian Archives website here.

 

 

Andy Fitzgibbon (fiddle)

Teaching video made for Andy’s students at the Wellington Bluegrass Society fiddle workshops. Fiddle cross-tuned AEAE, key of A.

 

(‘Ernie Carpenter’s Granddad’s Favorite- Andy FitzGibbon’ YouTube video, 2.27. Posted by Andrew FitzGibbon, 8 Sep 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uY9BAVRzvrc)

 

Andy Fitzgibbon plays with the Iron Leg Boys, and is part of the New Young Fogies project co-run by Anna Roberts-Gevalt (of Anna & Elizabeth: see ‘Billy in the Lowground’ 7 May 2015)

 

Ernie Carpenter‘s fascinating family history is outlined on the Berea College website.

For more of his music on Fiddletails, see ‘Gunboat’ (Sept 2015)

 

erniecarpenter1980

Ernie Carpenter (1909-1997)

 

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Filed under American old-time, American old-time/traditional, Uncategorized

The Blackest Crow

 

Here’s an old-time treat for singers, fiddlers, fiddle-singers, banjo players – or indeed anyone who loves a great tune rendered as a slow air.

The Blackest Crow is known as an Appalachian tune. Lyle Lofgren comments on its origins: Versions of this song containing references to glass breasts and superlatively black crows have been collected in both Appalachia and the Ozarks. Some of these versions are diary entries dating from the time of the American civil war. Written copies of the words and the existence of multiple tunes indicate that the song was spread by broadside or newspaper publication rather than in the oral tradition.

Jarrell 1Current versions of the tune mostly derive from the playing/singing of acclaimed North Carolina fiddler and banjo player Tommy Jarrell (1901-1985), whose working life was spent on road construction.

 

 

 

 

There are any number of versions of the lyrics, though the tune is generally unchanging. My three personal choices are each utterly individual. Enjoy!

 

Red Tail Ring

Laura Premo (fiddle), Michael Beauchamp (guitar)

Michigan multi-instrumentalists and master harmonizers, with ‘old-timey roots, new-timey sounds’. (Fiddle tuned down to EBF#C# – ie corresponding to standard tuning, but at lower pitch, with the tune fingered as though in standard key of G.)

 

(The Blackest Crow – Red Tail Ring’ YouTube video, 6.074. Posted by Laura Premo, 2 Aug 2011. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4wRnDa7GdzQ)

 

Adam Hurt (banjo)

Melodic virtuoso solo performance at the 2010 Sore Fingers Summer School, Oxfordshire, England. Adam’s rendition is so clear, it might just be the exception to the old rule that a fiddler should never learn a tune from a banjo player!

 

(‘Adam Hurt plays “The Blackest Crow”’ YouTube video, 3.24. Posted by clawhammerist, 22 Nov 2010. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8lLnHq0fTBk)

 

Tommy Jarrell (banjo)

The late and very great Mr Jarrell performing the song under its other common title, As Time Draws Near.

 

(‘Tommy Jarrell-As Time draws near YouTube video, 2.38. Posted by derwoodblues, 3 Feb 2012. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nUa5ikrLPjI)

 

Red Tail Ring:  currently on tour, with an unmissable Old-Time Ensemble Workshop in Downers Grove, IL, USA this Saturday, 3 October. Further details of that and remaining tour dates on their website, along with videos and downloads of their CDs.

 

Adam Hurt: for more information on gigs, recordings and online banjo teaching, see his website.

 

Tommy Jarrell: there is a wealth of information and recordings online, including an interesting biography here, and a lovely piece on his first fiddle now in the keeping of the  Smithsonian.

 

 

 

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Filed under American old-time, Uncategorized