Another Western Canadian fiddle master (or why traditional music # 877)

I featured Calvin Vollrath the other day. Now let’s here Manitoba fiddler Patti Lamoureux (Kusturok) along with Sabin Jacques on accordion and Jeremy Rusu on guitar, performing a Quebecois medley.

Cumberland Gap

Wet evening around here. My walk with the Newfs this evening was shorter than usual. Neither the dogs nor I were interested in walking around outside for long. This seemed like a good evening to  sit back and learn a new tune on the banjo.

Perhaps I should say learn an old tune, because the one I decided to work on – Cumberland Gap – has been around for a while. It was first recorded in the 20s but it may have been played back in the late 1800s.  Cumberland Gap is a pass in the Appalachian Mountains.

There are many versions of the tune, and there is even a specialty banjo tuning known as Cumberland Gap tuning. I was working on a version in D – that is, with my banjo tuned to double C tuning, with a capo on the 2nd fret.

Here are some of the different takes on this tune I’ve selected from YouTube.

I really like this performance by Frank Fairfield…

Clifton Hicks does a great job on this tune too. He uses his thumb and index finger to pick the banjo rather than playing clawhammer…

Now for something completely different, check out Bad Bad Whiskey…


Shortenin’ Bread

Shortenin’ Bread is a tune from the turn of the century – the 19th to the 20th that is. I grew up thinking of it as a children’s song but I’m rethinking that.

Check out this excellent performance by Chicken Train, filmed by a banjo picker named Dean Barber at Clifftop 2012.

That is some top-rate Old Time music in my books!

Here are some buskers called the Water Tower Bucket Boys playing it in Seattle back in 2009…check out the dancers!

Finally, just for the fun of it, here are the Collins Kids on Tex Ritter’s Ranch Party…


Red Prairie Dawn

Since I started learning to play clawhammer banjo, YouTube has been an incredibly handy tool. When I want to learn a tune, I like to listen to different versions of it, and fortunately there is a ton of Old Time music available.  It’s hard to imagine a time when the only way to learn this music was from other local players. I suppose the exchange is that regional identity gets washed into the mix.

I learned about the late Garry Harrison at the Midwest Banjo Camp in June. Not only was he a gatherer of great Old Time music from Illinois, he also wrote some excellent tunes. I’ve been playing one of them quite a bit lately – a tune called Dull Chisel, and now I want to learn another of his tunes, Red Prairie Dawn. So tonight I checked out some performances online.

Here are Mike Witcher – Dobro and  Grant Gordy – Guitar…

And here’s a really fast version by the Foghorn Stringband…

And one more, with John Jewell and Andrew Lovejoy…


Old Time on a Sunday morning

Fly Around my Pretty Little Miss (aka Western Country aka Susananah Gal). This is from the whitetopmusic channel on YouTube. It’s the Whitetop Mountain Band back in 1990.

Salt Creek

Here’s your Daily Dose of Old Time music. I came across this video surfing around on YouTube tonight. It’s Spencer Branch playing Salt Creek. I love the driving clawhammer on this one.

This group shows that a trio is plenty big enough to put out a lot of sound. It really inspires me to try to put together a little old time outfit sometime down the road. I suppose the first step in that direction is to find a fiddle player. Any fiddle players out there in the Toronto area, looking for a clawhammer player? Meanwhile, I’ve been playing a lot, trying to build some chops and learn a bunch of the old time standards.


Why traditional music #1468

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?


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.