In last week's post (Extreme ghost noting in "Yew Piney Mountain"" - available here), I posted tab and audio of an extremely crooked version of the West Virginia tune, "Yew Piney Mountain." While I got the inspiration for my arrangement from Chance McCoy's fairly-recently-recorded solo fiddle version (off of his 2008 album "Debut" - post about that album and other New Old time albums here) just about everyone who plays this tune seems to treat it a little differently. Melodic phrases can be recognized from version to version, but certain chunks may be removed or added by fiddlers to make the tune their own. While we treat source recordings as gospel for how a certain fiddler played a tune, I often wonder if these bouts of crookedness in "Yew Piney Mountain" may have changed if the tune were recorded by the same fiddler on a different day of the week : )
As someone who loves to play in groups, all of these versions of "Yew Piney Mountain" can create a bit of a barrier to participation in a jam setting. While all tunes vary a bit, players can usually play different versions of "top 40" tunes together without too many sour notes and more experienced players can easily alter their versions on the fly to match others in the group; different versions of "Yew Piney Mountain" don't typically play well together however and the amount of time it would take to figure out the nooks and crannies of someone else's version could easily bring a jam to a halt. Hence, the need for a "festival version" of "Yew Piney Mountain" a couple of which I'll provide tabs for in a bit...
First, a definition: when I refer to a "festival version" of a tune, I simply mean a version that represents the "musical average" of the versions of that tune you'd find out in the wild (and on field recordings). For this reason, festival versions will tend to be a little less notey and a little more squared off (i.e. less crooked) than many regionally-specific versions of a tune. I'll say right here that many people dislike the existence of "festival versions" of tunes, arguing that they represent a tendency towards homogenization of what was once a highly regional art form. Thought I can understand this attitude, I'll counter it with the following: festival versions of tunes are not usually created, they just occur when people from different places meet and play. In that sense, they seem like a pretty organic next step in the evolution of Old-Time music; since globalization, and the cultural homogenization associated with it, is only going to increase as time goes forward, we may as well embrace "festival versions" of tunes as somewhat "authentic" musical creations in their own right.
Furthermore, I think that "festival versions" serve as great entry points for diving into a tune; there is no reason to only play the "festival version" of a given tune, but it sure helps to have a simple stream-lined version of a tune like "Yew Piney Mountain" down for comparison before you try to pick out the nuances of a fairly obscure version. In this way, "festival versions" serve as teaching aides for more sophisticated investigation of a tune.
-------------------------------------------- Rant, if that was a rant, over : ) -------------------------------------------
A bit of context for the "festival versions" of "Yew Piney Mountain" I'll present here: The first version comes from "Mando guy" (read about him in my "Chord Substitutions" post here); he called "Yew Piney Mountain" in our late-night jam towards the end of Clifftop this year. Given my own bizarre version of this tune (and the others I'd heard), I was a bit worried that I'd never catch his version when he started to play - however it turned out to be his contra-dance-friendly version, which I was able to match fairly quickly, while still retaining much of my melody. Its absolutely recognizable as a variant of "Yew Piney Mountain" when compared to most tunes that go by that title, but easier to pick up on the fly (and keep up with) than most of them as well. This one is absolutely squared off, but I've heard other jam-friendly versions that still have an extra beat or two at the end of the B part.
The second version is simply a Mixolydian variant of the first version (if you don't know what I'm talking about, read my blog post on "modes" here). While many versions (including my own crooked version) are solidly in A minor (aka Aeolian) employing a C natural (minor 3rd), I've heard some Mixolydian takes (which still lean on a flattened 7th, but include a C#/major 3rd) on this tune as well. Fiddlers and fretless banjo players may even choose to keep one's ear guessing by playing a micro-tone between the notes and some players may switch modes by changing the note they choose mid tune....I thought that including both minor and Mixolydian versions (which are identical other than the "C" of choice) would provide you with enough options to cover all these bases : ) Your index finger has to do just bit of extra work to cover the C#'s in the A part.
Without further ado....here are the tabs:
Hopefully these are just a bit more jammable than the last version I passed on last week - hope you have fun with them!
This past Friday, I had a really nice 3 person jam (banjo, guitar, fiddle) at the home of a local fiddler. We covered some interesting ground tune-wise and he let me play his 6 string banjo for a bit; to clarify, this banjo had one extra bass string added to the normal 5 string configuration (i.e. it was not a guitar banjo). We played a couple of D tunes with it tuned aADADE (basically Double D tuning with an added low A string)....it was just amazing!! I was able to play low octaves of melodies and harmonies on the low A string right off the bat. Hopefully I'll get to play thing thing more in the future....and maybe get one of my own some day : ).
About this blog
I have lots of ideas about banjo playing and music in general - this blog allows me to get them all out of my head and see what you think.