Today's post will be a bit brief as I just got back from the Indiana Fiddler's Gathering (www.indianafiddlersgathering.org) and though I had big plans to record another tune for my "album" of original fiddle tunes (here) I'm just too exhausted at the moment. I figured I'd spend this post reliving the weekend's activities instead...you know as if this were a for-real "blog" blog : )
I was told about the Indiana fiddler's gathering (aka "Battle Ground") by a local MI banjo player who described it as "The Clifftop of the Midwest;" following such a ringing endorsement, I made a rather last minute decision to go. Well I'm certainly glad I did - it turned out to be a pretty amazing weekend! On Saturday I found a great group of musicians to pal around with including members of the MI-based Old Time (and more!) duet Red Tail Ring (redtailring.com). Man...those two can play!! I had to bow out at 1 am but my guess is that the jam may have kept going for a few hours (with the tunes trending weirder and weirder!). On Sunday, I went to the festival-organized Old Time Jam run by Brad and Ken Kolodner. Interestingly. while I know Brad and Ken as banjo and dulcimer players, respectively, Brad played bass and Ken played fiddle, both sounding great! When the jam was over I managed to play some banjo duets with Brad including "Five Miles from Town," "Sally in the Garden" and "Home with the Girls in the Morning." I mostly stuck to pretty standard melodies for all the tunes (out of nerves!) while Brad roamed all over the neck around me - it was a heck of a thing! One guy recorded us on his phone but I forgot to ask for his info - maybe I can find that stuff on youtube at some point!
Though the description "Clifftop of the Midwest" certainly bore out in the caliber of jamming, Battle Ground is a bit more stage-focused than Clifftop and the concerts certainly do not disappoint - I only got to see the Saturday afternoon and evening sets, but there were some pretty great acts in there! Brad Kolodner's band Charm City Junction (www.charmcityjunction.com) played a mix of Irish, Bluegrass, and Old time Tunes (...ever heard "Last Chance" on an accordion??). The Canada-based string quartet, The Fretless (www.thefretless.com) took some traditional tunes to some super weird (in a good way) places; they also brought my new buddies Red Tail Ring on stage during their set to play their song "Fall Away Blues" together, which was just a stunning performance! However, I was perhaps most impressed by Roger Netherton, a young fiddler who just tore up the stage and had the crowd on their feet; I didn't find a website for Roger but check out the recordings on his soundcloud page: soundcloud.com/roger-netherton. The guy can't be more than 20 years old...look for a lot of great music to come from him! (Hunter Walker killed it as the banjo player in Roger's band too : )
Anyways, fiddlers conventions are always a bit draining for me - lots in the way of playing, less in the way of sleep - but its totally worth it to escape the real world every once in a while. Going to sign off and go catch up - hopefully next week I can actually get back to recording!
After another short travel-related hiatus from recording my album (here), I'm back with another original fiddle tune! This one's called "South Kensington Shuffle" - its a D tune with an AAB structure though the B part is twice as long as the A part so it feels like an AABB tune. Here you go:
"South Kensington Shuffle" - an original fiddle tune by Jeff Norman (me). Played twice through by me on my Buckeye tuned to aDADE; guitar accompaniment the second time through using a 12-fret Epiphone Masterbilt in standard guitar tuning capoed on the 2nd fret.
Tune and recording Copyright 2017 - Jeff Norman.
I recorded this playing along with Garage Band's built-in metronome set to 110 bpm, but I think it could be a pretty great barn-burner for the speed freaks out there! The A part starts out pretty close to the C part of "Cumberland Gap" (the 3 part version in D)...but I'm okay with the overlap : ). The B part of "South Kensington Shuffle" starts on a G (IV) chord, which I think sounds nice.
The "South Kensington" part of the name comes from the hyper-posh region of London my parents lived in for a few years; to any Brits who may be reading: yeah, yeah...I know. The "shuffle" part is because I think a near-constant shuffle would be a great way to approach this tune on fiddle (...of course thats how I approach every tune on fiddle...). The Buckeye has been un-edited since the last recording...one tone ring, steel strings, renaissance head. Tuning is aDADE.
Hope you enjoyed the tune - we're on the home stretch of the album so hopefully I can finish soon!
I've been traveling for work and was able to stop by my old stomping grounds of southwest VA on the way back to America's high five. Lots of banjo to be had in these parts - I thought I'd use this week's post to give a bit of a blow-by-blow:
Thursday night I arrived in town just in time to play a duo gig with the fiddler from my old band in Virginia Tech's Moss Arts Center. The (quite fancy!) event was a reception for an exhibition focusing on local woodworkers called "From these woods." (info here). If you click the link you'll be hit with some eye-candy at the top of the page in the form of a GORGEOUS Buckeye banjo (www.buckeyebanjos.com), which was featured at the show! I, of course, got to play most of the tunes on my Buckeye (here), though I kept El Hefe (here) handy and tuned to Old G as well since shifting down to that tuning does take a bit of "settling in" time for any banjo. Greg wasn't the only banjo maker on exhibition: Mac Traynham actually had a banjo there too (mactraynham.com)! The gig went great...even though I always get just a bit nervous about playing through a PA : )
Friday was the first night of the Henry Reed Memorial Fiddlers convention (more info on that here) and I spent some time down there last night at a really great jam session! Amazingly, it can sometimes be hard to find musicians to play with at these things (...I never feel like one of the cool kids...) but yesterday I just decided to force myself to be sociable and I'm glad I did! I started by finding a guitar buddy: I sat down at his campsite and we started playing some tunes. As people walked by I just flagged them down and asked if they played anything. Eventually we expanded to 3 fiddles, 2 banjos, a guitar, and a guy who traded off between mandolin and banjo-uke. Really fun group! The best tunes of the night were definitely "Sandy Boys" and "Benton's Dream"...the latter of which the group definitely took to some interesting territory : )
Today (Saturday) I'm going back to the Henry Reed festival to compete in Banjo (and maybe Banjo-Fiddle duet..super cool that they even have this category!). I'm planning on trying out my "Yew Piney Mountain" for the banjo competition (here). Then, a trio version of the Happy Hollow Stringband (me on banjo + fiddle & guitar) are going to play a local fish fry, and we'll go back to Henry Reed afterwards to compete in the band competition. We're planning on picking a couple of tunes for the contest based on how they went at the fish fry. I've never done the band competition at Henry Reed but I've gotten 3rd and 5th in banjo in past years - I'm always surprised at how nervous I get up there! (I actually kind of train-wrecked at the end of "Newcastle" last year due to jitters). Just something about playing into a microphone I guess...hopefully I can give myself a powerful pep-talk this year!
In other news, the banjo that starred in last week's post (here) has shown up back in MI and my buddy says its pretty cool - can't wait to try it out! Next week, I plan on getting back to recording - until then!
I'm traveling for a week and, in all the past week's hubbub, I didn't have time to record prior to leaving town. Therefore, the next track on my album (here) will have to wait. However, I did manage to find time to purchase another banjo : )
Several weeks back, I thought it would be a fun to convert the Buckeye over to nylgut strings (recording of me playing "Banging Breakdown" on that banjo here). While I liked the sound, I really missed its steel string voice, and it didn't take me long to switch back. However, I've got the nylgut bug - its just kind of nice to have a banjo with such a different sound and its a bonus that nylgut leaves my banjo nail unscathed. So, I've been keeping my eyes peeled for a full-time nylgut couch-plunker in the Banjohangout classifieds. A few days ago I pulled the trigger on a fretted Buckbee! Below are a few photos:
Known specs are as follows:
- Shorter than normal scale length (maybe 24ish?)
- Spunover pot (I think...)
- Super cool looking skin head
- 40(!!) hooks
- Dates from the 1880s (probably)
- nylgut strings
Also - theres an interesting bridge on there as well. Because I'm leaving town, I've had to have it mailed to a friend's house and he'll get to play it before I do. However, I'll get my hands on it next week and, based on the specs, I'm expecting super-plunkiness - I'll try to get a recording up here in the near future!
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.