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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: TOTW 5/25/12 Hell Bound for Alabama


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handsup8 - Posted - 05/25/2012:  11:27:52



This week’s TOTW is Fiddlin’ John Carson’s “Hell Bound for Alabama.” I first heard this tune as an instrumental on the great record “Ship in the Clouds” featuring Lisa Ornstein, Andy  Cahan [on banjo], and Laura Fishleder. Here’s a link to this great version:



folkways.si.edu/TrackDetails.a...mid=25501



One of my banjo students wanted to learn the tune, so I decided to sit down with my wife Alice—of the fabulous ears, in addition to the rest—and figure it out based on that version. She sussed it quick and it’s become one of our faves to play together.



I subsequently located Fiddlin’ John Carsons’ original recording which includes three verses, and found that the Freight Hoppers had also recorded it with lyrics on their recent record “Mile Marker.” Links to these references are below, with Fiddlin’ John’s first:



amazon.com/Hell-Bound-For-Alab...000SFTIVO



amazon.com/Hell-Bound-For-Alab...004IDYRVI



There are no recordings or tablature of “Hell Bound for Alabama” in the BHO, at least according to my search. There are two YouTubes of the Freight Hoppers doing the tune:



youtube.com/watch?v=TiDP8XUqpvs



youtube.com/watch?v=LWf8_kXSqw4



There is also one version from a band called “Citico” which I don’t know much about:



youtube.com/watch?v=jOglTNBVQ0g



I love the tune because it’s a great, straight up breakdown with one crucial crook in it. The “A” section has only 6 measures so that the first two bars of the “B” section feel like they could be resolving the “A” but they’re actually running you ahead into the “B.” In this way the tune does feel hurried up, or “Hell Bound.” Then the “C” section is one of those great “coarse” or low sections where the fiddle can just scrape and rub like a bow-drill fire starter for as long as it wants before you jump back up to the top! The banjo can either stay down low with the fiddle, or play the coarse part up high like Frank Lee does often.



The Fiddler’s Companion has a pretty short blurb on the tune, which follows:



            HELL BOUND FOR ALABAMA. AKA and see "Hell Broke Loose in Georgia." Old-  Time, Breakdown. Some of the rhymes Carson used for the tune were taken from the song “I’d Rather Be a N....r than a Poor White Man” (See Talley {Ed. Wolfe}, 1991, pgs.    36-37).



            ***



            My name’s Ran, I wuks in de san’,



            But I’d druther be a n***** dan a po’ white man.  (Talley)



            ***



            Similarities to the Ozark region tune “Little Home to Go to [1].” Okeh 45159 (78 RPM),   Fiddlin’ John Carson (1927).



 



Also, here’s the “Tune Archive” link to sheet music and some lyrics for this tune:



            tunearch.org/wiki/Hellbound_for_Alabama



However, the “Tune Archive” lyrics and those at Fiddlers’ Companion are not that accurate to those sung by Carson himself—at least on the recording I have.



As far as I can make them out, Carson sings:



            Ain’t no hell in Georgia, hell broke loose in Georgia,



            Ain’t seen no mutton in an old tin pan,



            I can get to hell just as quick as you can.



 



            Goin’ to Alabama, goin’ to Alabama,



            My name ain’t Sam, I don’t give a damn,



            I’d sooner be a n***** than a poor white man.



 



            Raccoon flied (?) the possum, Raccoon flied the possum,



            Made 10 bales of cotton,



            Ain’t seen no mutton in the old tin pan, I can get to hell just as quick as you can.



 



The Freighthoppers choose to eschew the racial invitation in the second verse, as do I. They also slightly flip the lyrics around:



 



            Raccoon flied (?) the possum, made 10 Bales of Cotton.



            I ain’t never seen mutton in an old tin can



            I can get to hell just as fast as you can.



 



            Ain’t no hell in Georgia, hell broke loose in Georgia.



            My name’s Sam, I don’t give a damn,



            I’d rather be a runner than a repo man.



           



            I’m going to Alabama, well I’m going to Alabama.



            My name’s Sam, I don’t give a damn,



            I can get to hell just as fast as you can.



 



I haven’t done my own recording of this tune yet, and I’ll be gone playing old time tunes at the Black Creek Old-Time Gathering this weekend. I’ll try to get up a recording when I return. Here is a tablature I did for my banjo students, hopefully I can post a link here. Enjoy, and let me know what else you know about this rockin’ tune!




Hell Bound For Alabama Tab

   

EggerRidgeBoy - Posted - 05/25/2012:  11:48:59



Great tune.  Thanks the tab - I don't have a wife with great ears to help me suss out fiddle tunes, so I always appreciate it when someone does it for me.



Looking forward to your banjo version next week.  Enjoy Black Creek!


handsup8 - Posted - 05/25/2012:  12:05:20



I thought that I'd also post a more bare bones version of the "Hell Bound" tab so that you can solve your own banjo problems, as I harangue my students to do! The other version present my own solutions, which I hope are worth messing with, but here's the tune stripped down. Since there has also been a recent kerfuffle related to drop-thumbing, I have left all drop thumbs out of this one. Enjoy, Ted.



Edited by - handsup8 on 05/25/2012 12:05:55



Bare Bones Tab for Hell Bound for Alabama

   

vrteach - Posted - 05/25/2012:  12:10:09



One of the best albums ever. Fine tune.



TOTW #200!



Edited by - vrteach on 05/25/2012 12:11:51

EggerRidgeBoy - Posted - 05/25/2012:  12:13:11



quote:


Originally posted by handsup8




I thought that I'd also post a more bare bones version of the "Hell Bound" tab so that you can solve your own banjo problems, as I harangue my students to do! The other version present my own solutions, which I hope are worth messing with, but here's the tune stripped down. Since there has also been a recent kerfuffle related to drop-thumbing, I have left all drop thumbs out of this one. Enjoy, Ted.






Thanks again - that is indeed even more helpful to me.  These days I am sort of caught in the middle between learning a tune from tab and learning it by ear.  I don't want to simply learn someone else's specific version from tab, and yet it is very difficult for me to pick a tune up solely by ear.  The latter is the ultimate goal of course, but having the basic melody sketched out either in tab or in standard notation is a helpful step along the way.



Anyway, aside from all that, I'm enjoying just listening to "Hell Bound for Alabama" - I was not familiar with the tune until now (nor with the "Ship in the Clouds" album, which is now on my "to buy" list).



Edited by - EggerRidgeBoy on 05/25/2012 12:15:15

handsup8 - Posted - 05/25/2012:  12:21:24



I'm glad the bare bones is useful, ERB. I usually teach a tune by ear, then give students a bare bones tab, and then once they've messed with it I'll present a more fleshed out version that presents a record of my take on the tune.



Yeh, VRTeach, that is one kickin' album. Andy Cahan is one of my banjo heroes and Lisa Ornstein is sick, as my son would say. Together they make me shake a leg and moan!


EggerRidgeBoy - Posted - 05/25/2012:  12:21:40



quote:


Originally posted by vrteach


 



TOTW #200!






 I guess I should have had some balloons ready!



(I see that Ted - Handsup8 - was almost a double "winner", having posted TOTW #99 - Hail Against the Barn Door - back in June of 2010.)



Edited by - EggerRidgeBoy on 05/25/2012 12:27:29

blockader - Posted - 05/25/2012:  12:27:51



down here in Georgia we call this tune Hell Broke Loose in Georgia. Probably cause Georgians would rather for Hell to break loose than to be bound for Alabama!wink I've played it a few times at pickin parties but i haven't gotten around to really figurin it out. Good Pick!



-justin



 


handsup8 - Posted - 05/25/2012:  12:39:54



quote:


Originally posted by blockader




down here in Georgia we call this tune Hell Broke Loose in Georgia. Probably cause Georgians would rather for Hell to break loose than to be bound for Alabama!wink I've played it a few times at pickin parties but i haven't gotten around to really figurin it out. Good Pick!



-justin



 






Hey Justin, I had seen that these two songs were linked and they do share a great deal. However, the "Georgia" tune seems to be square not crooked, and to have 4 parts rather than a crooked three. Here is a YouTube of the Foghorns playing it that way:



youtube.com/watch?v=_Gpgvj6HpBc



I'm not sure if this will be an active link or not. Let me know if I'm way off base here, but I think they're distinct branches from a similar root. Ted


EggerRidgeBoy - Posted - 05/25/2012:  12:45:21



quote:


Originally posted by handsup8








Hey Justin, I had seen that these two songs were linked and they do share a great deal. However, the "Georgia" tune seems to be square not crooked, and to have 4 parts rather than a crooked three. Here is a YouTube of the Foghorns playing it that way:



youtube.com/watch?v=_Gpgvj6HpBc



I'm not sure if this will be an active link or not. Let me know if I'm way off base here, but I think they're distinct branches from a similar root. Ted






 Active link:  youtube.com/watch?v=_Gpgvj6HpBc



Edited by - EggerRidgeBoy on 05/25/2012 12:47:50

blockader - Posted - 05/25/2012:  14:49:50



hmm, the times i've encountered it there were definitely only 3 parts. but then again, everyone round here only plays 3 parts to John Brown's Dream which i understand to not be standard elsewhere.



they sound pretty close to me at any rate. this is the closest thing to what i remember:



youtube.com/watch?v=pjO2PfjN-yY



its definitely a bit different. i recall using something pretty close to the B part of Dubuque for it.



-justin


Tamarack - Posted - 05/26/2012:  06:41:32


A classic old-time tune in style and substance. Congrats to all on TOTW #200!

janolov - Posted - 05/27/2012:  23:48:38



It was a real nice tune! It was very easy to memorize from the bare bone tab. I managed to play it thumb lead within a few minutes.


handsup8 - Posted - 05/31/2012:  04:43:45



I'm glad the barebones was useful, JanOlov! It's a rockin' little tune. T


OK-4 - Posted - 05/31/2012:  07:26:47



There was a terrific version of this by Plank Road in the old Kicking Mule album Southern Clawhammer Banjo, using a bass fiddle to help it gallop along.


handsup8 - Posted - 05/31/2012:  10:35:35



Thanks, OK-4. I couldn't find this record available anywhere on-line except as vinyl [for $35], although it appears that Bob Carlin did a tablature book for it which Amazon has for sale. I did locate the Plank Road String Band on a CD for sale by the Field Recorder's Collective in the 2008 set of CDs. There is a version of "Hell Broke Loose in Georgia" listed on this but not "Hell Bound for Alabama." Here's that link:



fieldrecorder.com/docs/store20...tm#frc606


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