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 Playing Advice: Clawhammer and Old-Time Styles
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: TOTW 4/27/12 - Barlow Knife


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/234759

SCclawman - Posted - 04/27/2012:  08:34:00



Up for discussion for this weeks TOTW is Barlow Knife, which in my opinion has one of the most beautiful melodies. I never get tired of playing the "A" part especially. 



Chances are most of you know the song already and play it on a regular basis. Before joining the Hangout a little over a year ago, I had never heard of the song and also did not know what a Barlow Knife was. 



What is a barlow knife? In case you didn't know, here's a brief history on the knife itself from barlow-knives.com/history.htm 

A barlow style knife has one or two blades, a huge metal bolster, and a comfortable tear-drop shaped handle. The blade or blades are attached at the small end of the handle.  Even though the first barlow knife was made in Sheffield England in the 1600's, it was made by several American shops soon after, and has become just as American as "apple pie".  George Washington was known to have a barlow knife. Mark Twain referred to a "real Barlow" in his Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn in 1876.  Barlows have long been gifts, treasured by young American boys.   



Do yourself a favor and check out this article. It's taken from "Popular Science" magazine in December 1920 where they had an ad for a barlow knife. Really neat story. appalachianhistory.net/2010/03...ried.html



As far as the song Barlow Knife, it seems to be traditionally played out of the key of G although I did find one on the hangout in the key of C.



I have attached my take on Barlow Knife that I recorded a few months ago. It includes clawhammer banjo and a Larrivee parlor guitar that is "high-strung." 



From the fiddler's companion:

Glen Lyn, Virginia, fiddler Henry Reed called the tune “Cabin Creek,” and fiddle players have tended to use that title (banjo players more frequently refer to it as “Barlow Knife”). Jeff Titon (2001) says a variant of the tune is “I’ve Got a Grandpa,” and Kentucky fiddler Buddy Thomas played another variant under the title “Blue Goose.” Mark Wilson reports that it was called “Boatin’ Up Sandy” (somewhat of a floating title—it has been attached to several tunes) in the Portsmouth, Ohio, region. Titon concludes that the tune was fairly widespread in the South under the “Barlow” title and variants.



***

Nigel Gatherer has found melodic strains similar to “Barlow Knife” in two old Scottish manuscripts. The earliest, the Straloch MS. (1627) contains a tune called “The Old Man,” while the second, the Skene MS (c. 1640) has a more developed version under the title “Long Er Onie Old Man.”



Here are a few versions that I enjoy:

Fuzzy Mountain String Band -



blanham's version from Miles Krassen's book



Don Borchelt from Clifftop 2009



vrteach



Video from Mr. Zepp



Here is some sheet music if you like that kind of thing smiley



Finally, here are some lyrics:

I been livin' here all my life,

All I got is a Barlow Knife;

Buck horn handle and a Barlow blade,

Best dang knife that ever was made.

***

I’ve been married all my life,

And all I’ve got is a Barlow knife.



Looking forward to hearing some more versions posted on the Hangout this week. Record something and share it with us!!!



Edited by - SCclawman on 04/27/2012 08:37:02



Barlow Knife

   

EggerRidgeBoy - Posted - 04/27/2012:  10:00:35



I've learned several tunes out of the Miles Krassen book, and was just leafing through it yesterday looking for a new tune to add to my repertoire.  I had actually settled on "Barlow Knife", so this is a very timely TOTW. 



Thanks for the write-up, and the information on barlow knives.  I don't know that I had ever actually thought to ask what one was.



From the Krassen book:  This great tune was played by Henry Reed.  He called it "Cabin Creek" and as such it was recorded by Alan Jabbour.  I learned the tune from Frank George who knew it from his youth as "Barlow Knife".  Frank's version had only the first two parts. [Miles Krassen's tab has an A, B and C part]



 



Edited by - EggerRidgeBoy on 04/27/2012 10:07:33

bd - Posted - 04/27/2012:  10:13:02



Here's my version:




VIDEO: Barlow Knife
(click to view)

   

vrteach - Posted - 04/27/2012:  11:03:56



Yep, one of my all-time favorites. Although the version I have in the hangout storage is pretty lickity-split, I generally sing the little verses and play it a bit slower.


janolov - Posted - 04/27/2012:  11:32:34



I think I have heard BK in both the key of G and the key of D. Anyhow, I have learnt in both keys (key of G in standard G tuning, and key of D in standard C /drop C/ capoed 2). What key is the most common?


SCclawman - Posted - 04/27/2012:  11:33:38



thanks eggerridge



vrteach, i thought your version was great. i really enjoyed listening to it. You should post one with you singing the verses as well. I'd like to hear it 



 


LyleK - Posted - 04/27/2012:  11:48:24



I thought I had burned out on this tune as I had been playing it since my mid-teens, but it's fantastic to hear the various takes here.  And not to be missed, the four part "Cabin Creek" from Ed Haley that includes Barlow Knife as the A & B parts (maybe C part as well?).  Be sure to see Adam Hurt fiddling and claw-hammering Cabin Creek.  The following link (to "Clawhammer Mike's" blog) gives Ed Haley's version and Adam fiddling it:



clawhammertuneoftheday.blogspo...reek.html



And youtube.com/watch?v=UPF2QtV_LiQ for Adam's CH version.


Bisbonian - Posted - 04/27/2012:  11:54:00



I recorded a version a couple of years ago:  youtube.com/watch?v=EkFo1UavI10  Complete with errors and flubs.  And a few birds singing, if you listen closely.



Edited by - Bisbonian on 04/27/2012 11:55:03

Carlos Benavides - Posted - 04/27/2012:  12:01:35



Travis (SCclawman), that was just wonderful. Your tone is superb! Just the ticket for weekend inspiration.


blockader - Posted - 04/27/2012:  12:36:00



a great one and seems to be a favorite of just about everyone. heres a short video of us (The Ale Raisers) doing it this past weekend. its bit quiet and my wife quit recording cause some folks stepped in front of the camera. oh well. we usually do some singing on it but not that time. another fiddler we play with sometimes does it in D (a vermont thing?) which is actually really nice. J-walk helped me figure it out in double D tuning but lately i've just been putting a kyser guitar capo on in regular open G.



-justin



got no farm, got no wife



all i gots a barlow knife




VIDEO: Barlow Knife
(click to view)

   

vrteach - Posted - 04/27/2012:  12:57:08



quote:


Originally posted by SCclawman




vrteach, i thought your version was great. i really enjoyed listening to it. You should post one with you singing the verses as well. I'd like to hear it 


 






OK. I had this one sitting around. I kind of prefer playing it on a nylgut-strung banjo, or maybe the Tradesman I recently got, but this is (like the other) on the Goldtone WL-250. This is something that I put together for a CD which largely features a musical friend of mine who developed a historical play. What I include here is just mixed by me, but the cd version is remixed (and fixed) by BHO member Doug Knecht.





Edit: Hey, I like the Ale Raisers!



Edited by - vrteach on 04/27/2012 13:02:45



Barlow Knife (with a little vocal)

   

majikgator - Posted - 04/27/2012:  14:29:04



Nice pick, my friend MadKelt and i always play this one when we get together - key of G


hoverflytheo - Posted - 04/27/2012:  14:49:10



Me and my band play Barlow Knife quite a bit. Since we're from Sheffield, theres a tiny bit of a local connection, too. I've got a recording on my hangout page - not sure how to link to it...


SCclawman - Posted - 04/27/2012:  14:52:46



justin, real nice my friend! I want to see and hear more from the ale raisers. that looked like a cool place to be playing as well.



vrteach - thanks for sharing the vocals too. i love this song!


Chadbanjo - Posted - 04/27/2012:  17:49:37



Came on in search of a new tune to learn, this is it. Cool tune and nice versions fellers.


bd - Posted - 04/27/2012:  17:55:01



quote:


Originally posted by hoverflytheo




Me and my band play Barlow Knife quite a bit. Since we're from Sheffield, theres a tiny bit of a local connection, too. I've got a recording on my hangout page - not sure how to link to it...






Click on Add Attachments when composing your reply.



I like your version, its got a good bounce to it.



Edited by - bd on 04/27/2012 17:58:17

RG - Posted - 04/27/2012:  17:58:00



Love this tune, I play it out of fCFCD (or gDGDE if you want to play it with the fiddlers in G)...here's a version I put up a couple of years ago...love this tune as just a solo banjo tune.  Still have the Barlow knife that my dad gave me...that sucker holds an edge to this day...



Edited by - RG on 04/27/2012 18:10:09



Barlow Knife

   

stigandr5 - Posted - 04/27/2012:  19:35:56



Canjo arrangement and video:



 






Barlow Knife TAB


VIDEO: "Barlow Knife" N.A. Wendte
(click to view)

SCclawman - Posted - 04/27/2012:  20:05:41



Bisbonian - be careful sitting on that tree...if that was me, i'd be in the water with my banjo floating away...loved hearing the birds in the background and the playing was extra special



stigandr5 - great canjo version...enjoyed reading your blog about how it came to life.


Bisbonian - Posted - 04/28/2012:  06:30:36



I was doing my best Kermit The Frog impression.



 



Love that canjo, too.


Gadaya - Posted - 04/28/2012:  15:14:24



Love that tune. here's a version I played last year on my Enoch Dobson:



youtu.be/uRDFPybfvTQ


bd - Posted - 04/28/2012:  17:05:27



That's a good one, Gadaya. But having watched a bunch of your posts I didn't expect anything less.


Tamarack - Posted - 04/29/2012:  06:38:11


A fine classic tune. The Barlow knife is such a fixture among pioneers/farmers/working people that is certainly deserves its own tune.

J-Walk - Posted - 04/29/2012:  10:23:59



quote:


Originally posted by SCclawman

As far as the song Barlow Knife, it seems to be traditionally played out of the key of G although I did find one on the hangout in the key of C.




In jams, we always play it in G. But I prefer to play it in Double C, which enables to complete octaves for variety.


Ron Ortegel - Posted - 04/29/2012:  10:45:37



Travis, your version is superb. I have been enjoying your playing of several tunes including" Down in the Willow Garden" . Great tune and playing.



 



Bisbonian, You really make that Stewart sound good! 



BK is a tune to know. Good choice for TOTW.



 



I need to play this one more.


banjo bill-e - Posted - 04/29/2012:  11:12:53


I also play it in C. It works well in Double C or Open C.

aeroweenie - Posted - 04/29/2012:  11:16:11



Good call for TOTW.   I've fooled around with it in the past and being TOTW gave me the impetus to really learn it, I started with the tab in Krassen's book and pretty much have it down though not well enough to post.  I really like all the versions people have posted, variation is the spice of OT music imho.



To me, Barlow Knife is similar to The Boatman.  Anyone know if the tunes are related?


WildJimbo - Posted - 04/29/2012:  17:17:34


My quickie version for the TOTW.



VIDEO: Barlow Knife
(click to view)

   

J-Walk - Posted - 04/29/2012:  17:31:31



That's some nice playing, and a cool tune. But, in a million years, I wouldn't have guessed it was Barlow Knife!



Do you have a source for that one?


WildJimbo - Posted - 04/29/2012:  18:52:08


quote:
Originally posted by J-Walk


That's some nice playing, and a cool tune. But, in a million years, I wouldn't have guessed it was Barlow Knife!



Do you have a source for that one?






LOL beats me. I know I learned it somewhere, but it's been too many years for me to recollect where I learned that version. I know I've been playing that "a part" for about as long as I've been clawhammering. I also have a three finger version (same melody) posted on my page here.

At any rate I'm glad someone was listening. :)

WildJimbo - Posted - 04/29/2012:  19:58:40



Here's the 3-finger version.  Again, same melody line as I play above.  I guess I'll just have to call it Jim Pankey's Barlow Knife.  :)




Barlow Knife

   

Bisbonian - Posted - 04/29/2012:  21:02:39



quote:


Originally posted by aeroweenie


To me, Barlow Knife is similar to The Boatman.  Anyone know if the tunes are related?






In my mind, they have always been grouped together, too.  I don't know if there is any relation, other than a lot of the same notes, and three parts.



 



Jim, I can hear the melody of Barlow Knife in there (more obvious in the three-finger version), but it sure does sound different than any I have heard, too.  Maybe it's a harmony rather than the melody?  Sure sounds good.



Edited by - Bisbonian on 04/29/2012 21:06:42

SCclawman - Posted - 04/30/2012:  06:02:24



quote:


Originally posted by Bisbonian




quote:


Originally posted by aeroweenie


To me, Barlow Knife is similar to The Boatman.  Anyone know if the tunes are related?






In my mind, they have always been grouped together, too.  I don't know if there is any relation, other than a lot of the same notes, and three parts.






 I've always gotten the songs confused. I know the A parts well, but the B and C parts get me confused sometimes. At least 50% of the time I start of with Barlow Knife (A part) and then go straight into the B part from Boatman. 


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