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 Playing Advice: Clawhammer and Old-Time Styles
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: TOTW 7/29/11 - West Virginia Burial in the Rain


Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link: http://www.banjohangout.org/archive/212135

EggerRidgeBoy - Posted - 07/29/2011:  11:21:09



 



TUNE OF THE WEEK – “West Virginia Burial in the Rain” 



This week's TOTW is a bit of a game-day substitution. I was originally going to follow the same path I did for Darling Nelly Gray, my TOTW back in December, and choose a Minstrel-era tune that over the generations had entered the folk process and become a traditional stringband standard. As a relative newcomer to clawhammer banjo and old-time music - at least at a serious level - I don't have a long term  personal connection with most of the old-time repertoire, and my interest in specific tunes is often as much historical as it is musical. But this time around, instead of the interesting characters, fascinating historical tidbits, and colorful stories I uncovered while researching Darling Nelly Gray, the tunes I had chosen as possibilities led only to endless arguments over original authorship, title variants, and alternate lyrics, discussions that even a wannabe-ethnomusicologist like me found tedious.



So instead of any one of those tunes, I've gone in the opposite direction and chosen a tune with a very short history. It is West Virginia Burial in the Rain, written by Richard Peek. I first came across it a couple of years ago on YouTube. Having had my first, entry-level banjo for all of a month or so at that point, I had already come down with a case of BAS and was researching Bart Reiter banjos when I found this video from “rpeek”, on which he demonstrated the sound of a Reiter he had for sale by playing one of his own compositions:  youtube.com/watch?v=qn1lO8656do



I really liked the tune - it had that haunting, archaic quality that drew me to old-time clawhammer banjo in the first place. I put it on my "to learn one day" list, where it still resides. With so many jam standards still to master, I simply haven't gotten around to trying this tune, in part due to its unusual tuning - gCGCF. Evidently it was the tuning itself that was the genesis of the piece. As Richard explains: George, my old banjo coot buddy, tuned my banjo to this weird, eerie tuning, with the first string so tight I break it about every third time I tune it back up from G; handed the banjo back to me and said: "Now, take this home and see what it teaches you." So I did, and it taught me this song.... (He describes the tuning in more detail here:  youtube.com/watch?v=IYbDTVrqaHk .)



Although I like and appreciate the variety of obscure tunings in the old-time banjo tradition – and the “atmospheres” they create -  I have been sticking to G, G modal, and Double C, just to prevent myself from wandering off on too many tangents before actually mastering the basics.  Ideally, even though it might subtly change the character of the tune, I would like to learn West Virginia Burial in the Rain in Double C, but perhaps that would make it noticeably more difficult to play.



Richard has posted several other videos of the tune. Most (such as these youtube.com/watch?v=rZPOP7P1kno & youtube.com/watch?v=44o1GqDopf4 ) are pretty much the same as that first version, although one that he entitled Variations on a Burial demonstrates a slightly different take on the tune: youtube.com/watch?v=WX_YnciRpBg .



I only found one version by somebody other than Richard, this one by Ben Talbott (YouTube member "Zippymanyyay101"), which follows Richard's pretty closely: youtube.com/watch?v=1PAlcMNouzI.



The few times I've mentioned the tune to someone else - my banjo teacher for instance - I've called it Rain on the Burial Ground, I guess just because I'm lazy and that takes less effort to say, and maybe because it follows the time-honored "Something on Something Else” pattern of old-time tune titles. Besides, every self-respecting banjo tune needs at least two names. Since I can't yet really add to the tune's life by coming up with my own version, I figure the least I can do is participate in the "folk process" by creating an alternate title and giving TOTW researchers in 2081 something to sort out.  smiley



 



 



 



Edited by - EggerRidgeBoy on 07/29/2011 11:27:32

Paul S - Posted - 07/29/2011:  15:30:04



Last Feb. my father was on his death bed and I was determined to find just the right tune to play at his funeral.  I was looking around you tube and came across rpeek's tune.  I listened to it once and new that this was it. Well, dad died a few days later so I learned the tune in about a weeks time and played it, everybody really liked it. That was the first time I ever played in front of anyone, except my wife and kids. Yep, that's  right , my parents had never heard me play. I told rpeek about it and he was really appreciative and thanked me.  I have not played the tune scince,  partly because I broke so many 1st strings trying to get it to F and I kinda feel like its dad's tune now. Rpeek, if you read this post, I'd just like to thank you again sir, for such a beautiful tune, and thank you RidgeBoy for the TOTW choice.



Paul S



Edited by - Paul S on 07/29/2011 15:34:32

blanham - Posted - 07/30/2011:  03:44:13



Mr. Peek has made up a great tune there, and it would be tough to equal his performances of it.  I especially like the "Cooper the Dog" video, where he speeds it up some.


lmuecke - Posted - 07/30/2011:  14:38:11



Oh my, that is beautiful...... thank you for sharing it.


EggerRidgeBoy - Posted - 08/01/2011:  09:40:40



quote:


Originally posted by Paul S




Last Feb. my father was on his death bed and I was determined to find just the right tune to play at his funeral.  I was looking around you tube and came across rpeek's tune.  I listened to it once and new that this was it. Well, dad died a few days later so I learned the tune in about a weeks time and played it, everybody really liked it. That was the first time I ever played in front of anyone, except my wife and kids. Yep, that's  right , my parents had never heard me play. I told rpeek about it and he was really appreciative and thanked me.  I have not played the tune scince,  partly because I broke so many 1st strings trying to get it to F and I kinda feel like its dad's tune now. Rpeek, if you read this post, I'd just like to thank you again sir, for such a beautiful tune, and thank you RidgeBoy for the TOTW choice.



Paul S






 Thanks for your story, Paul.  I sent a similar message to Tony Ellis when my dad died three years ago.



 


EggerRidgeBoy - Posted - 08/01/2011:  09:43:52



quote:


Originally posted by blanham




Mr. Peek has made up a great tune there, and it would be tough to equal his performances of it.  I especially like the "Cooper the Dog" video, where he speeds it up some.






 



I like the "Cooper the Dog" version, too - both for the music and for the bit at the end where he reaches over to pet his dog, Zacky.


EggerRidgeBoy - Posted - 08/01/2011:  09:44:35



quote:


Originally posted by lmuecke




Oh my, that is beautiful...... thank you for sharing it.






 You're welcome - I'm glad you enjoyed it!



Edited by - EggerRidgeBoy on 08/01/2011 09:46:47

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