I could listen to David Bromberg sing Summer Wages 100 times in a row and never get bored. Once in a while I like to have a look on the YouTube machine to see if there’s a version I’ve missed.
Let’s not forget it was written by Ian Tyson. Here he is with Sylvia and Emmylou Harris…
I recall being at that show back in the day. It was an “Ian and Sylvia Reunion” show. I think it was filmed at Canada’s Wonderland. The show was set up for TV, complete with big cue cards. I came to know Ian Tyson’s music in the early 80s and not from the Ian and Sylvia days. I finished university back in 83 and I was restless. I had a car that ran pretty well and a little bit of cash (back in those days, getting a university education wasn’t the expensive proposition it is today), and I took off for the west for a few months before facing the prospect of balancing making paintings and making ends meet. Radio stations in Manitoba and Saskatchewan and Alberta were playing tunes from an album of cowboy tunes by Ian Tyson called Old Corrals and Sagebrush. I suppose it was his re-emergence into the music scene singing cowboy songs. For me it was just what the doctor ordered and I cranked the volume and listened to cowboy music across the prairies.
Since becoming somewhat obsessed with clawhammer banjo, I’ve been posting mostly what we call “Old Time” music on this blog. Some readers will remember it wasn’t always that way around this joint.
I’d like to feature some Basque music tonight, and in particular music made on the Alboka. It’s a very unique instrument….check it out:
Here’s another Alboka piece, this time with tambourine.
Two-row diatonic button accordion was added to the tradition later on, and I think that instrument and the tambourine became the more dominant instrumentation.
I stumbled across this wonderful video of Harvey “Pappy” Taylor playing Devil in the Haystack at age 90. Is it true to play the fiddle you have to make a pact with the devil?
Me attempting to play Shady Grove (major version)…
I was thinking about Wade Hemsworth today. I was trying to concentrate on something else, from which my mind needed a little break, and old Wade came to the rescue. His music just kind of crept in when I wasn’t expecting it. A lot of people I know have no idea who Wade Hemsworth was, but if you played them one of his tunes, like The Blackfly Song or The Log Driver’s Waltz, they would say, oh yeah I know that tune. I grew up with that tune. Everybody knows that one.
I wasn’t thinking of either of those tunes, though. I was thinking of The Shining Birch Tree. Do you know it? I think it’s one of the greatest songs ever written in this country. How’s that for praise? Check out this little video which ends with Mr. Hemsworth and his friends The McGarrigles singing The Shining Birch Tree. The video also gives a little insight into Wade Hemsworth and his life and work.
Here’s Murray McLauchlan singing it, with the McGarrigles singing backup and Anna McGarrigle on diatonic button accordion…and with Wade Hemsworth looking on. I know I’ve posted this one before, but it’s so good it deserves a re-post.
And here is one more version, performed by Adam Miller, an autoharp player…
I love the line about old Rory Bory shiftin’ around. Perfect.
I’ve known the tune Shady Grove for a long time. It’s well known, and has been recorded a zillion times. On the banjo, this is usually played in Sawmill tuning, or “mountain modal” tuning as it is also called. Here’s a fairly typical approach to the tune (and a beautiful one too!), played by Doc Watson and the Kruger Brothers.
More recently I’ve learned about another version of Shady Grove – played in a major rather than minor scale. This version is apparenty based on a version played by the late great NC autoharp player, Kilby Snow. Here is a performance of the major scale version posted by tripharmonica on YouTube.
I’ve recently learned a similar version on clawhammer banjo. It’s a lot of fun to play.
On the eve of Canada Day I’d like to feature a video I’ve shared before (it’s one of my faves!) – The Old Tyme Fiddler’s Dream by Mac Beattie and his Melodiers, featuring the great Reg Hill on fiddle. Canada has a great fiddle tradition in a variety of styles including Cape Breton, Ottawa Valley, Metis and more. This one tune gives us a taste of some of Canada’s greats.
I was thinking about the old cowboy song, Diamond Joe so I searched around YouTube and found this performance by Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, in which he talks about how he learned it from a cowboy at a rodeo in Brussels of all places. Jack struggles with a malfunctioning capo during this performance but nevertheless still manages to do a fine job on it. Jack Elliott has a way of squeezing all the goodness from a song.
We live in a world in which our popular music is dominated by corporations presenting young adults in their teens or twenties. They have to look the right way and dress the right way and the producers make them sound the right way to hit that mass-market demographic. One of the reasons I’m always listening to folk traditions and music that is perhaps less popular to mass audiences is that there is room for performers who don’t fit that cookie cutter, performers who aren’t so attractive, performers who are older, performers who play music that isn’t the same as most of the material you hear on the radio.
The performance I’m linking to is from 2012, back when Jack Elliott was about 80. He’s been playing music for a very very long time, mostly traveling around playing solo, telling the stories of his adventures along the way.
Here’s Diamond Joe
This tune has been around the block a few times. Here’s a bluegrass-infused version by Sam Bush.
Curiously, it isn’t the only tune called Diamond Joe. There is also an Old Time tune with the same title. Here’s Marc Nerenberg..
It’s not out of reach for a pop performer either. Bob Dylan took a stab at it in his terrible movie Masked and Anonymous…
This is me, practicing an Old Time standard known as Lost Indian. There are lots of different versions of this one, and even some very different tunes that use the same title.
I’m playing my Bart Reiter Standard banjo in open G tuning, with a capo on the second fret – playing in the key of A.
I posted a train tune the other day and that’s dangerous business around here – once I start posting train songs it’s just hard to stop. Here’s Iris DeMent singing The Train Carrying Jimmie Rodger Home.
Strange as it may seem, I know there are some folks out there who are asking, who is this Jimmie Rodgers fellow? We’re talking about The Singing Brakeman. Here’s a sample….a little T for Texas, Blue Yodel #1
Jimmie Rodgers was born in 1897 and lived until 1933. In his short life he cemented his legendary status as the father of country music.