Sandy River Belle

Sandy River Belle is a well-known fiddle tune, but it also has a special distinction. There is a particular banjo tuning – The Sandy River Belle tuning – named after it. I should say tunings with an s because there are variations on the Sandy River Belle tuning. I’ve been learning one of those – the one that’s also called “Old G” tuning (gDGDE). Among other things, this tuning is well suited for the tune, Sandy River Belle. Curiously enough, this tune is also played in good old G tuning by a lot of players. I’ve been learning the tune on clawhammer in Old G, and one of these days I’ll try recording myself playing it on video – but for now, here are a couple excellent versions.

Let’s start with April Verch, a fantastic Canadian fiddler from the Ottawa Valley. There are not many April Verch videos around that do not show her playing fiddle. In some she plays fiddle and dances, but in this one she dances and the music is driven by her banjo player.

Next, I stumbled into a version of the tune featuring squeezebox. Here is Sharon Shannon…very nice.

Two great covers

Time for a daily dose of country & western.

Let’s start with Iris DeMent covering Merle Haggard. I could listen to this tune about 100 times in a row.  Funny how some music does that to you, grabs you where it counts and won’t let go. Iris DeMent just hammers this one home, backed up by Marty Stuart and his very well-dressed band. The single snare drum is a beautiful touch.

Although Iris DeMent is not a prolific songwriter, I usually think about her as much as a songwriter as a performer, because she has written some great ones. However, as I listened to the last tune, I thought about this one, written by Harlan Howard and Bobby Braddock – God May Forgive you (but I won’t).


Forked Deer

A fiddle tune is like a cool drink of ice water – always welcome here at 27th Street. Here’s Spencer Branch playing the Forky Deer. Check out the way Kelley Breiding attacks the tune on clawhammer. Wow!

Spencer Branch do songs too, not just tunes. Here’s Black Widow Lady

Martha Spencer appears in this trio as well as in the Whitetop Mountaineers and in The Whitetop Mountain Band. Picking is a family business for the Spencers.


Cold Sunday morning – let’s warm up with some music from Texas. Here’s Butch Hancock

And here’s Texas Tornadoes performing Mr. Hancock’s best known tune, She Never Spoke Spanish to Me.

Off to play Go…

I’m off to play some Go this evening so I’ll leave you with a little something to listen to. Here’s Kilby Snow playing autoharp and singing Troubles….

Delia was a gamblin’ girl…

Time for an old folk song. Here’s David Bromberg playing the old murder ballad, Delia. It’s a true story…

This tune has been around the block a few times. There are many versions of of it around, and curiously enough, most of them are excellent. Check out what Bob Dylan did with it on World Gone Wrong…

Georgia Crawl

Some visitors might be saying, hey this blog is getting very music-heavy lately don’t you think? Well, all I have to say to that is, c’mon, let’s do the Georgia Crawl. Here’s Meredith Axelrod with Jim Kweskin.

Train that carried my girl from town….

Last night at the Banjo Special, we enjoyed several combinations of performers but I think my favourite was the duo of Chris Coole and Ivan Rosenberg. These guys sound fantastic together. I’ve also been listening to their recording, Return to Trion, in the car – it’s got some great tunes.

Here’s a performance of one of the tunes on the album…

When I think about old time music I usually think about American musicians from places like North Carolina or Virginia or West Virginia or Kentucky, but we we have some great players like these guys based right here in the Toronto area.