Tag Archives: crooked tune

Ways of the World


Andy Fitzgibbon teaches a lively 3-part, crooked Kentucky tune as played by fiddler William Hamilton Stepp in 1937. The fiddle is cross-tuned AEAE, giving that characteristic Old Time ring from the sympathetic drone strings. (More on Bill Stepp and cross-tuning below.)


Andy Fitzgibbon (fiddle)

Teaching video for the 2014 Cowan Creek Mountain Music School advanced fiddle class.


(‘Bill Stepp’s Ways of the World – Andy FitzGibbon’ YouTube video, 2.31. Posted by Andrew Fitzgibbon, 8 Sep 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cm7ckNRuiX0)


fhofstepp2William Stepp (fiddle)

‘Fiddler Bill’ Stepp (18451947), of Magoffin County, Kentucky, was the last fiddler to be captured on disc machine by Alan and Elizabeth Lomax during their Kentucky song-collecting expedition. He was a close friend of fiddler John Salyer (see ‘Last of Harris’).



(From the Appalachian Center Collection, Berea College Southern Appalachian Archives. Hear the full Stepp recordings at: http://digital.berea.edu/cdm/search/searchterm/Stepp)


Here’s a note on cross-tuning, previously published in ‘Newt Payne’s Tune


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)

More hands-on cross-tuning at:

http://www.stringband.mossyroof.com/ (tunes taught at Greg and Jere Canote’s Seattle string band classes



Andy Fitzgibbon plays with the Iron Leg Boys, and co-runs the New Young Fogies project with Anna Roberts-Gevalt (of Anna & Elizabeth: see ‘The Devil’s Nine Questions/Billy in the Lowground’)


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

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.


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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Fine Times At Our House

dance in london brit mus

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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Filed under American old-time, Uncategorized

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.



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)



Ernie Carpenter (1909-1997)


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



Purlongs is an intriguingly crooked tune from Playford’s Dancing Master (1651), and the roots of its inscrutable title are much debated. (Andy Cutting’s definition: ‘Any distance travelled by a cat.’)

However, the word appears to be a Middle English variation of ‘purloin’ – to steal, in a stealthy manner:

Purlong: Middle English purloinen, to remove, from Anglo-Norman purloigner. Noun: purloiner. (Via thefreedictionary.com)

And there you have it. Purlongs. Thieves/robbers. Case closed?

(Perhaps not. Googling purlongs also gave me furlongs/corruption of, and instructions for installing purlins when putting up a roof.)


Cut to the chase! Here are two wonderful bands – Leveret and Boldwood – playing the lovely Purlongs.



Andy Cutting (melodeon), Rob Harbron (concertina), Sam Sweeney (fiddle)

Purlongs played second in a set with Whitefriars Hornpipe, which was the tune for 28 May (Purlongs: 2:50). Mr Cutting half visible but entirely audible.


(‘Leveret – Whitefriars & Purlongs Live in Dursley Town Hall’ YouTube video, 5:41. Posted by Sam Sweeney, 12 Jul 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FwCdsI6Qrx4)

The set is on Leveret’s 2015 CD New Anything, available from their website.


Leveret tourLeveret kick off their UK tour at Cecil Sharp House, London. THURSDAY 1 OCTOBER









Becky Price (piano accordion), Matthew Coatsworth, Kate Moran, Daniel Wolverson (fiddles)

Played second in a set with Fete de Village (Purlongs: 2:10) in a live performance at The Queen’s College Chapel, Oxford, 1st June 2013, featured on the unpublished CD Mudlarking**.



For news of gigs and recordings, see Boldwood’s website and their lively Facebook page.

**For previously-featured tunes from Mudlarking, see also Jackson’s Shaving Brush (June 2015) and The Miller of Perth (Aug 2015).




Filed under English folk/traditional, Uncategorized

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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