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)
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.
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
This 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).
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.
As 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.
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.)
This Tennessee old-time tune is simple in structure, but its chiming arpeggios are great fun to play on fiddle and banjo – and hopefully on box/accordion too, which I understand often don’t gel with old-time tunes.
Three videos featured in this post: one solo fiddler, one fiddle/banjo concert performance, and a link to an excellent teaching video.
Fiddler and banjoist Newt Payne (1904-1977) was born on South Pittsburg Mountain, Tennessee, and worked most of his life as a miner.
The only recordings of his music are on a 2003 CD* by another Tennessee fiddler, Bob Townsend, who heard Newt play as a child. One tune was untitled, so Bob called it Newt Payne’s Tune as it was known as a Payne family tune that Newt used to play at dances. (See banjohangout)
* Old Time Fiddlin’ Tunes From The South Cumberland, available here.
Newt Payne’s Tune makes a good introduction to playing fiddle cross-tuned – a traditional feature of American old-time fiddling,with that unmistakable sympathetic ring characteristic of open tunings. All three versions below are in either open G or open A, so you can take your pick of which you’d like to tune to and play along with! (It’s worth noting that fingering is identical in GDGD and AEAE – ie, the same fingering works for the different keys because the tunings are at different pitches.)
Of course, you can still play the tune in standard tuning GDAE, though it will be more difficult to catch the lower drones, and the glorious ring will be lost.
(Note for the financially-challenged: It’s cheaper to play cross-tuned in A (AEAE) as the lower strings are far more forgiving of being tuned back and forth. If you play in cross-tuned in G (GDGD), for example, there’s a tendency for the top string to break once you’ve retuned it back up to E a couple of times.)
(See below for more information on cross-tuning, and blog post ‘Falco’/25.6.2015 for a good English tune to try cross-tuned.)
Katie Henderson (fiddle)
A resounding version in G (fiddle tuned GDGD/Sawmill tuning), recorded for Katie’s long-running, encyclopaedic New Tune A Day project.
Sophie Enloe (fiddle), Maggie Lind (banjo), Patrick Lind (guitar)
A really clear and well-paced teaching video here, produced by a trio of tutors from the Portland Old Time Stringband Class. (I’ll embed the video once I’ve received full permissions from all players). Key: A (AEAE/cross-tuned).
Fingering note: unlike standard tuning, the fingering here plays the same notes (an octave apart) on both pairs of strings. (It’s worth noting that fingering is identical in GDGD and AEAE – ie, the same fingering plays in different keys because the tunings are at different pitches.)
The Portland Old Time Stringband Class YouTube channel habibanola has many old-time videos, with more accessible via their website neighborlymusic.net.
So you thought you could play violin…? – cross-tunings for those hell-bent on going over to the dark side:
The second of the crooked tunes I promised last week is a delightful, fairly recent American oldtime tune. Expect the unexpected in the B part!
Twin brothers Greg (fiddle) and Jere (guitar/banjo/melodeon) are renowned for their off-the-beaten-track tunes, traditional and modern. This quirky tune, composed by Jere, was inspired by a cat who would always go out by the front door, but would only ever come in through the back.
Greg Canote (fiddle), Jere Canote (guitar), Adam Hurt (banjo), Cathy Barton (banjo), Dave Para (guitar)
A clip from a jam/teaching session at American Banjo Camp 2009, held at Fort Flagler, Washington state.
Slower teaching audio file of the Canotes and Candy Goldman playing, made for their Seattle stringband class. (Greg’s fiddle is tuned ADAE. If you must, you can get away with standard tuning – but then you’ll miss that great cross-tuned ring from the sympathetic low A…)
American Banjo Camp 2015 – 11-13 September at beautiful Fort Flagler, WA – is “not just for banjos anymore! We also feature a FIDDLE track as well as GUITAR, BASS, MANDOLIN, and JAMMING classes!” Sign up for 87 classes, 23 scheduled jams, 2 concerts, 6 meals, 2 late-night snacks, and 2 optional sleep periods. And all over one stonking weekend (note the “optional”!). Here’s the link: http://AmericanBanjoCamp.com
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!