Anyone who listens to John Hartford's fiddling hears his intros, comments and stories as well. He starts this one on the CD Hamilton Ironworks with: "This is the Squirrel Hunters...." With this melody you can imagine the dense woods where hunters would go. John credits the Pennsylvania song collector Samuel Bayard with this tune, but I've heard it as "Hail Agin the Barn Door" by Mary Z Cox and again by Chris Poole, and recently here on BHO (see below).
Don Borchelt enlightened me yesterday that Samuel Bayard's book, March to the Fife and Dance to the Fiddle, has over 600 tunes which may include Squirrel Hunters, that it costs $250 on amazon, but is available from the library at UC Berekely. I'm becoming more interested in Samuel Bayard, also highlighted in Tune of the Week through the tune Maggots on the Sheep Hide by Pennsylvanian Sarah Armstrong. I discovered that Samuel and my father went to the same school in State College, PA and that Samuel graduated in 1934. My father was born in 1913 and would have been 21 at this time--an optimal time for going to college. And furthermore, they both majored in English and both were musical. Hmmmmm....I'll never know if they knew each other.
My recordings of Squirrel Hunters were helping me compare the openback and the gourd banjos. Recently I'd gotten good tips on recording more effectively with the Zoom4Hn recorder.
Please check out the links below to Hail Against the Barn Door to compare this tune to Squirrel Hunters. I think they're basically the same.
Thanks! After listening to this again I think that my fingernail sounds a bit loud. Next time I'll put the recorder a bit farther away or turn the mic volume down. Recording acoustically is a different experience for every song. I might get one out of five tunes that I like. And that's after my normal take after take after take. Lucky I'm recording mostly solo or my mandolinist husband, kind as he is, would lose patience.
quote: Originally posted by JanetB After listening to this again I think that my fingernail sounds a bit loud.
No wonder my fingernails sounded loud. This was the recording that caused me to seek ways to improve my recording technique and the positioning of the recorder. I posted the better quality recording above, called "Squirrel Hunters--gourd." I think you'll enjoy it more. Sorry.
Ah ha! The secret is out! Trim our fingernails and we can all pick as smooth as you. Noticed you had a response from Janna...another of my favorites especially when she blends the banjo into her native musical arrangements. Always enjoy your insights and comments on the early banjo players and tunes. As mentioned before I never paid much attention to those players, as I was just enjoying listening to all the posts on the hangout by you pickers, but you opened up a new source of interest for me.
Good sound - the playing and the recording quality. I didn't notice anything annoying about the sound of your nail. To me, you're getting a good, clear tone out of the gourd, an instrument which I gotta say is not that easy to get a good sound out of. I've been trying to plunk on things for along time but, frankly, the times I've tried to play Adam Hurt's gourd, I haven't gotten to first base. You've got to have an extraordinarily delicate touch to make them things wanna sing. You do a great job with yours, Janet. It'll only get better from here, I'm sure.
Here are links to Hail Against the Barn Door, recently posted as MP3s. I think it's the same tune as Squirrel Hunters, so it's probably the same old story of tunes that travel across the world with different names.