Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Clifftop 2011

   West Virginia Public Broadcasting made a video about the Appalachian String Music Festival  which is held in Clifftop every year.  For anyone wondering what Old Time music is, this video is the perfect introduction. 
   The video features many musicians from the Morgantown area.  Let's see, there's Keith McManus (fiddle) providing commentary, and I saw cameos from Bob Shank (hammer dulcimer), Rachel Eddy Herner (fiddle) , Scott Phillips (banjo), Scott Radabaugh (fiddle), I.B. Browning (trumpet) and others. 

   Morgantown musicians (mainly from the Brew Pub Jam as well as the Percival Hall Pickers who play on Tuesday nights) are well represented in the world of Old Time string music.  One of our unique features is that we usually have brass instruments from I. B. Browning as well as Robert Shank on trombone.  
  Please let me know if you know the names of others in the video so that their names can be recorded for posterity.  Hey, with any luck our grandchildren will be studying this stuff in the year 2050, so maybe it will be important!
   The next Clifftop experience will be on August 1-5, 2012.  Be there or be square.  Or if you can't wait, be sure and check out the Worley Gardner Winter Music Fest, which will be held in Morgantown the weekend of February 24 -25 at South Middle School in Morgantown. Join us!!!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Cajun Fiddle (the song, that is)

   "Cajun Fiddle" (that's the name of the song, not just the genre of fiddle playing) is occasionally played at the Morgantown Jam.   What we call Old Time music is not just music that has its roots in the past. In actuality what we play in Morgantown has its own personality, derived mainly from its roots in Scotch/Irish folk songs.  There are many other regional differences, so that a good listener can often guess where a band comes from based on the style of the music that they play. 
    In the region around Louisiana  in particular, there is a French influence, which results in a much different sound, but one which is easily adapted by West Virginians if they put their minds to it.  The French referred to themselves as Acadians, which is a region in French Canada.  "Cajun" is just a regional (mis) pronunciation of "Acadian." 
     The Cajuns, among other things, like to create a catchy fiddle rhythm in triplets:  dit dit DAH dit dit DAH dit dit DAH dit dit DAH. 
    The song "Cajun Fiddle" was composed by Don Rich, who played in the Buckaroos, which was the backup band for Buck Owens, the co-host of Hee Haw.  So it isn't actually all that old, though you might argue that it is kind of a synthesis of very old Cajun chord progressions from way back, kind of like a Cajun version of the 12 bar blues.  Anyway, this is what it sounds like.  This version comes from some nice folks who call themselves Banjo Phil and Miss Emily.  Phil is playing the guitar with a capo on the second fret. The song is played in A, but I would guess that Banjo Phil's main instrument  is banjo (well what do you expect from someone named Banjo Phil?) and so he likes to play in G.

A      D      A      E
A      D      A-E  A-E-A

E      A      E       A
D      A      E       A

Fiddle music is appended below, from David Moffitt, where I found it posted at . 

   In addition to this song, I can't help but include a rockabilly/Cajun fusion song called "Down at the Twist and Shout."  This isn't the type of song we would normally play at the Brew Pub, but it shows some of the potential ways that the Cajun fiddling style can find its way to other styles of music.  In particular, this song incorporates an electric guitar and electric bass,which kind of disqualifies it as Old Time.  I'll bet it would sound just fine played on more traditional instruments, however. The main reason I wanted to include it is to show that the rhythm is very similar, and Cajun music can be a lot of fun.
   Bring on the crawdads and Jambalaya, and let's have us some Cajun music!