Sunday, August 26, 2012

Arkansas Traveler

    Arkansas Traveler is another of those songs that everyone is supposed to know, and I decided to blog on it so that I would for sure learn to play it!  Although Old Time musicians are pretty good at playing songs that they don't actually know, this particular song has a lot of rapid chord changes, and so you really have to know it in order to play it well. 
      I remember learning this song in music class in about the 5th grade.  It has also been used several times in cartoons from Warner Brothers, so if that doesn't qualify it as an American institution, I don't know what is. 
     Arkansas Traveler was written in the 1800s by  Colonel Sanford C. "Sandy" Faulkner.  

    Rick Good, Sharon Leahy, Ben Cooper (all regulars at the Trolley Stop) play in this version along with Janden Gladstone on the fiddle and Nick Dauphinais on guitar.  (thanks Yaffstone, whoever you are, for uploading  this on youtube).  

     Here is a version by Tommy Jarrell, a superstar fiddler from way back when who was still a tremendous fiddler into his 80s,  with Aly Bain, from a 1980's TV series called Down Home. There are a few high quality youtube videos out there that feature Tommy, so I would encourage any fan of Old Time fiddling to check them out.  It's the closest thing you can get to having a time machine. 

D-G-  D---   A---   A--- 
D-G-  D---  D-G-  A-D-

D-G-  D-A-  D-A-  D-A- 
D-G-  D-A-  D-G-  A-D-

Oh, once upon a time in Arkansas, 
An old man sat in his little cabin door 
And fiddled at a tune that he liked to hear, 
A jolly old tune that he played by ear. 
It was raining hard, but the fiddler didn't care, 
He sawed away at the popular air, 
Tho' his rooftree leaked like a waterfall, 
That didn't seem to bother the man at all. 

A traveler was riding by that day, 
And stopped to hear him a-practicing away; 
The cabin was a-float and his feet were wet, 
But still the old man didn't seem to fret. 
So the stranger said "Now the way it seems to me," 
You'd better mend your roof," said he. 
But the old man said as he played away, 
"I couldn't mend it now, it's a rainy day." 

The traveler replied, "That's all quite true, 
But this, I think, is the thing to do; 
Get busy on a day that is fair and bright, 
Then patch the old roof till it's good and tight." 
But the old man kept on a-playing at his reel, 
And tapped the ground with his leathery heel. 
"Get along," said he, "for you give me a pain; 
 cabin never leaks when it doesn't rain." 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Kentucky Girl

     Bluegrass Music Shop in Columbus Ohio hosts a jam which incredibly lasts all day long every Saturday staring at 8:00 AM. I can't believe that anyone gets up that early to play bluegrass, but they do. 

    I attended that jam for the first time last week and met a lot of nice folks and tried to learn some new songs. One such song is Kentucky Girl, which the banjo player introduced thusly:

"This here song has only two chords, G and D. So if you try one and it don't sound right, play the other." 

     Well, with that compelling logic, how can you miss?

     To make a long story short, two chords never sounded so good.  This is a really good song!

     So, I did some research on the net, and found out that it was composed and played in about 1972 by a fellow named Charlie Moore.  Travers Chandler tells the story of Charlie's short but brilliant life here: , Kentucky Girl has also been recorded by the likes of Thunder Mountain Bluegrass, Big Country Bluegrass, and Larry Sparks. Youtube has some versions from the Crosspickers, the Carolina Bluegrass,  Carolina Rebels, the New Connection Bluegrass Band, and a few others.

     Here's a version from a group called the Rhoda Creek Boys. I was going to not even bother with it, figuring it was just some kids. But kids or not they can really play and the vocal harmonies are excellent.

I also like this version by John Cogdill, which is evidently from a parking lot jam (that, by the way, is where the best music is played, definitely not in a recording studio!) ...

....and finally , one more from the Flint Hill Ramblers:

In order to play along with the first and second video, you can capo on 2nd and play in the key of G, or else you can be a little more daring and play in the key of A. 

The third video is in the God-given key of G, which is the same key we played in at the jam.  

G(A)                           D(E)
Kentucky girl are you lonesome tonight, 
Kentucky girl, do you miss me? 
Does that old moon shine on the bluegrass as bright
As it did on the night you first kissed me?  

      G(A)                       D(E)
In a valley, 'neath the mountain so high,
                                  G (A)
the  sweetest place in all the world  
In a cabin with vines on the door 
is where I  met my Kentucky girl


       G (A)                      D (E)
I'm far away from old Kentucky tonight,
                                         G (A)
and the blue-eyed girl that I love so. 
                                          D (E)
But Im heading home in the silvery moon light 
                                G (A)
with open arms she waits i know.