Banjo Practice

Head for the hills, it’s banjo practice time. Here’s me attempting to play a fiddle tune known as The Forky Deer, or Forked Deer (say fork-kid).

Shady Grove

Shady Grove is a tune that has had a lot of play over the years. I always associate this one with Doc Watson. I learned to play a version of this tune when I started learning clawhammer, but stopped playing it for no real reason and it drifted out of my memory. I’ve recently started playing it again, so I’ve been listening to various versions. The following video featuring Doc with the Kruger Brothers is a great example of his signature approach to the tune, and it features Jens Krugers wonderful banjo picking.

Bruce Molsky is one of my favourite old time musicians. If you’re just getting into this kind of music and you’re thinking of adding some old time tunes to your collection, you can’t go wrong with Molsky, whose recorded output is excellent. He plays banjo, fiddle and guitar – but here he is on banjo playing Shady Grove.

We usually think of Shady Grove as a “modal” tune (Dorian mode), but it has been done as a major tune as well. Kilby Snow, the autoharp player, recorded a great version of this. You can hear a sample of that here. Also, enjoy Zepp’s major version on banjo….

Homework: check out a tune called The Death of Sis Draper by Guy Clark. I couldn’t find it on YouTube. It’s on his recent (tremendously good) recording, My Favorite Picture of You. The Death of Sis Draper is done to the tune of Shady Grove. It is a followup to his much earlier tune Sis Draper. Not only does it use the melody from Shady Grove, it also references Shady Grove in the lyrics. We love this whole album around 27th Street – you will too.

Cook a little Shortnin’ Bread

The tune Shortnin’ Bread must be embedded deep in the genetic code of Canadians and Americans. I can’t remember not knowing that melody. Some people might call it a kid’s tune, but there are versions whose lyrics are a little more adult oriented. The melody lends itself to interpretation, and so Shortnin’ Bread has been done up many different ways.

As you know I like all kinds of folk music….so let’s start out with a Psychobilly version by none other than The Cramps…

Here’s a really hot version I found on YouTube (I might have even shared this one before). It’s from a jam at Clifftop back in 2012.  Here are the notes from YouTube on this one: Asheville, N.C.-based Chicken Train was performing at Clifftop 2012 last week over a box of their CDs. Sales were brisk because their music making was topnotch. That’s John Hermann on banjo and John Engle on fiddle. Meredith McIntosh is on guitar. Not sure who was on bass, but she was solid. I didn’t hear a better band in my opinion.

Want it in a jazz setting? Here’s a short clip featuring Mr. Charles Mingus. Mama’s little baby likes all the fine things in life. It gets cut off but what is there is pretty fine. There is some language on this clip not for the kiddies…

Let’s go out with some Bluegrass. Here’s Earl….

Missouri Borderlands

Here’s Joe Newberry performing his song, Missouri Borderlands.

I had a chance to meet Joe Newberry in June of 2014 at the Midwest Banjo Camp. I took a class from him about a clawhammer banjo figure known as the “Galax Lick”. Let me say that I like Joe’s music a lot, and I like Joe too.

Here is Mr. Newberry singing unaccompanied, performing Piney Mountain – great performance of a great song.

Down the River I go

I could listen to Cathy Barton and Dave Para sing Down the River I go Uncle Joe all day. I like the tune so much I made a painting after it.

Down the River I Go

That painting is on display at Yumart starting this afternoon as part of my exhibition of new paintings, Ways of the World.

I met Cathy and Dave last year at the Midwest Banjo Camp and learned to play some great tunes from Cathy, who is one of my favourite clawhammer players. If you ever have a chance to see these two perform live, don’t miss it. They’re fantastic players and really nice people too.

Western Plains

Here’s how Leadbelly did it…

Check out these covers…..

Pharis and Jason Romero….

Meredith Axelrod and Craig Ventresco

Time for a fiddle tune…

Here’s Chris Coole playing a tune from Henry Reed, known as Quince Dillion’s High D. He’s playing with Alan Jabbour who created field recordings of Henry Reed in the mid-60s when Reed was in his 80s. I particularly like this tune and I’ve been working on learning it on clawhammer banjo (I’ll get it down eventually, he said hopefully). This recording is from one of the concerts at the 2013 Midwest Banjo Camp. I was at the 2014 camp, and hoped to go again this year, but due to my messed up ankle I won’t be able to make the trip.

Time for some button accordion music….

It’s been a while since I’ve posted button accordion music here. This morning I’d like to feature Yves Lambert. A few years ago we were lucky enough to enjoy M. Lambert and his group at the International Accordion Festival in San Antonio. He is a wonderful player and performer. Here’s a more recent taste…

West Fork Gals

Here’s a bunch of guys playing West Fork Gals on somebody’s front porch. This tune has one of the prettiest melodies. I sometimes wonder where that particular West Fork might be….