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.

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….

Why traditional music #617 (Rake & Rambling Boy)

This performance by Emily and Thornton Spencer sends chills down my back.

Here are the same pair, as part of the Whitetop Mountain Band from 1990…

Emily Spencer with Martha Spencer doing the Carter family tune, Distant Land to Roam…


Not exactly a carol, but….

I know of just one tune in Old Time music that mentions Christmas, and that’s an old fiddle tune called Breaking up Christmas. This song is usually associated with the Round Peak style (this refers to the particular way old time music is played in the Mount Airy NC area) , so let’s listen to Tommy Jarrell do it up right…



Forked Deer

It’s pronounced Fork-id Deer or sometimes Forky Deer, and it’s one of my fave fiddle tunes. It’s one of the tunes I attempt to play on clawhammer banjo. Here are a couple nice performances of the tune. First up is the Berline, Crary and Hickman…

And now, here’s Tony Trischka and Barbara Lamb…



Fortune from Friday evening's fortune cookie
Fortune from Friday evening’s fortune cookie


Here are Craver, Hicks, Watson and Newberry performing Fortune at the Cook Shack (from YouTube)

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…


Why traditional music #647

Don’t try this at home kids, and remember old time music is addictive and may be dangerous to your health.