Category Archives: American old-time/modern

The Atlantic Waltz




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)

(‘The Atlantic Waltz – Premo & Gustavsson’, YouTube video, 4:47. Published by Laurel Premo, 24 Aug 2015.


Album alert!

Laurel & Anna’s new album I Walked Abroad is out now – available as download or CD from cdbaby


Premo & Gustavsson:  website

Laurel Premo:  website    Red Tail Ring*

Anna Gustavsson:  website

*From time to time, Fiddletails features Laurel Premo and Michael Beauchamp‘s duo Red Tail Ring – use the Search box to find posts of their acclaimed music.

You can hear another tune by Premo & Gustavsson here, in a wonderful pairing of nyckelharpa and gourd banjo.


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Filed under American old-time, American old-time/modern, American traditional, Scandinavian folk, Swedish traditional, Uncategorized

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.


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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Horserace Rapids




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.


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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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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Newt Payne’s Tune

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.


Newt Payne

Fiddler and banjoist Newt Payne (1904-1977) was born on South Pittsburg Mountain, Tennessee, and worked most of his life as a miner.

DANCEDOG-001-CD__96094_zoomThe 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.


(‘Newt Payne’s Tune (Old-Time) NTAD’ YouTube video, 1:24. Posted by Katie Davis Henderson, 4 Feb 2012.

Katie’s newtuneaday.blogspot and Youtube channel are stuffed with brilliant tunes, and well worth rummaging around in. She has also compiled a NTAD tunes e-book, available through her blog.


Stephanie Coleman (fiddle), Adam Hurt (banjo)

Adam and Stephanie weave their magic around Newt’s tune at the Sore Fingers Summer School, Oxfordshire, UK, April 2010. (Love that quirky bass line!) Key: G (GDGD/Sawmill tuning)


(‘Stephanie Coleman and Adam Hurt play “Newt Payne’s Tune”’ YouTube video, 2.53. Posted by clawhammerist, 23 Nov 2010.

Click for more information on Stephanie Coleman and Adam Hurt. (Adam will be teaching banjo at American Banjo Camp 2015, 11-13 September, at the stunning Fort Flagler State Park, Nordland, Washington State.)


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


So you thought you could play violin…? – cross-tunings for those hell-bent on going over to the dark side:

From Wikipedia’s excellent page on cross-tuning:

FCGD = Cajun Tuning (one whole step down from GDAE)

GDGB = Open G Tuning

GDGD = Sawmill Tuning or “Cross G”

GDAD = “Gee-Dad”

DDAD = Dead Man’s Tuning, or Open D Tuning, or Bonaparte’s Retreat Tuning, or “Dee-Dad”

ADAE = High Bass Tuning, Old-Timey D Tuning

AEAE = Cross Tuning, “Cross A”, “High Bass, High Counter” (or “High Bass, High Tenor”), Cross Chord; similar to Sawmill Tuning

AEAC♯ = Black Mountain Rag Tuning, Calico Tuning, Open A Tuning, or Drunken Hiccups Tuning

AEAD for Old Sledge, Silver Lake

EDAE for Glory in the Meeting House

EEAE for Get up in the Cool

(Reproduced under Creative Commons license)

See also: (tunes taught at Greg and Jere Canote’s Seattle string band classes








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Sadie at the Back Door

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!


Canote Brothers

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.

(‘A Jam/Class at American Banjo Camp, 2009’ YouTube video, 1:11. Posted by Peter Langston, 30 Sep 2009.


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

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…)




For more about the Canote Brothers, including albums, gigs, and the Seattle stringband class, see their website:

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

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

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:




Filed under American old-time/modern