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 Playing Advice: Clawhammer and Old-Time Styles
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: TOTW (OT) 18 July 2014: Apple Blossom (Kentucky)


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/288288

Zischkale - Posted - 07/17/2014:  22:26:23


This one's a regional tune that would've filled the warm summer air a late night or two in 1920's south-central Kentucky, at some generous host's moonshine-fueled square dance. The fiddlers might've been "teed up a little," as ol' Jim Bowles phrased it. Up all night sawing away at this soaring melody.



It first caught my ear when I joined the jam at the Dallas Heritage Village one September day last year. It's a simple tune, but one that hooks you quick. Key of D, I play it in aDADE. The coarse part hovers low to the ground, kicking up dust before breaking through to that fine part (real fine), where the melody launches into the sky on a high A, hits a little turbulence before gaining even more altitude to the B note. Then back to earth. 


 


A few of the fiddlers who attend the Dallas old-time jam play the tune as part of a medley containing Shamrock Shoddy and Wolf Creek. There's supposed to be a great live version by Bruce Greene, but I didn't have much luck tracking it down (Bruce Greene did incidentally take a few of the field recordings I link to below). The two most available field recordings are performed by Isham Monday (of whom I wasn't able to learn much about) and Jim Bowles. I wish Jim's rendition would go on for twenty minutes (we get a measly 50 seconds!). He's got a great, very musical sense of ornamentation, throwing in these nice trills, sometimes where you don't expect it.


 


Now this isn't to be confused with the Texas style tune of the same name. From what I can tell the TOTW differs from Apple Blossom Time as well. There also might be some kinship between our TOTW and one called Dubuque (or Duck River). On recordings from Clifftop, you can hear the stellar old-time band Bigfoot play a tune I've seen labeled as Dubuque, that is in fact a carbon copy of our TOTW (played masterfully).


 


So with the rambling out of the way here's the meat and potatoes, starting with the link to where this tune can be found on the Fiddler's Companion:



ibiblio.org/fiddlers/AN_AP.htm

 


A link to field recordings of Isham and Bowles:

 




And a link that'll lead you to John Lusk's version, which is a good deal different than Isham or Bowles', but is listed in the same section in the Fiddler's Companion.



slippery-hill.com/M-K/



Here are some great versions to be found on Youtube:


 


This fella learned his version from the WildRoot String Band.






 


Group jammin' at Mount Airy in 2010.




 


Bullet train of a rendition of Lusk's version--again, Fiddler's Companion calls it the same tune as Isham's, but it's quite a variation. Similar feel in the fine part.




 


Tune called Apple Blossom Time played by Tennessean Chuck Tramel on banjo (as mentioned on Fiddler's Companion), that's clearly a close kin to the TOTW.





 


 


And my rendition:




 


Here's my tab of the tune, the basic way I'm playing it:



drive.google.com/file/d/0B3zIo...p=sharing


 


 


And some other cool stuff...


 


Links to parts one and two of a great Old Time Herald article from '94, about Jim Bowles, written by Jim Nelson. Well worth the read, some great quotes from Bowles (including the one about gettin' teed up):


 




 


 


Here are a few more field recordings, such as another version of Isham's take on the tune:



http://dla.acaweb.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/berea/id/659/rec/22

 






 


I'd love to hear some renditions from y'all! Happy to make this my first TOTW!



[EDIT for spellin']



Edited by - Zischkale on 07/17/2014 22:29:26

paumanok - Posted - 07/18/2014:  06:56:43


This is great, thank you!

strokestyle - Posted - 07/18/2014:  09:19:56


Hawk Hubbard at Clifftop 2012 playing Apple Blossom. My guess is Hawk got this from Garry Harrison. I'd have to look at home to see if Garry has it in the Dear Old Illinois book for credits on where he got it. Nice tune Thanks.



Edited by - strokestyle on 07/18/2014 09:20:46

Brooklynbanjoboy - Posted - 07/19/2014:  07:58:49


Great tune choice.



Great write up.



Nice video selections. 



Hard to select a “favorite.”



(But for me it would be: “Group jammin' at Mount Airy in 2010.”)



Great tone on your banjo.



Yours was a skillfully played version.  You have an unerring right hand.



A fine TOTW (OT) maiden voyage.



V/R,



Lew


Mtngoat - Posted - 07/19/2014:  09:10:17


Zischkale, 



Good work!



The Chuck Tramel version is intriguing.  Can anyone share information about him?  Does he have other recordings available?



 


Brooklynbanjoboy - Posted - 07/19/2014:  09:35:24


Here's my crack at it:



 




 


Have a great weekend,

 


Lew

Zischkale - Posted - 07/19/2014:  09:42:29


quote:

Originally posted by strokestyle

Hawk Hubbard at Clifftop 2012 playing Apple Blossom. My guess is Hawk got this from Garry Harrison. I'd have to look at home to see if Garry has it in the Dear Old Illinois book for credits on where he got it. Nice tune Thanks.







That's some smooth fiddlin'. I'm thinking that's the Texas style version, has some minor-chord sounds in there.



Thanks for the good words, Lew! I don't know 'bout "unerring," I might've just learned to play through mistakes! Thanks for posting your rendition, good original take on it, and some mighty plunk on that 'jo (what make is that instrument?).



Mtngoat, I added that Chuck Tramel at the very end on a whim. I would like to know more about it, if anybody can shed some light.


JanetB - Posted - 07/19/2014:  15:27:31


This teacher gives you an "A", Aaron.  Nice presentation and I'd say you're ready for a jam, sober or otherwise.  The tune is a beauty.  Happy, pretty tone, Lew.



Here's what I get from both Jim Bowles and Isham Monday's recordings.  I was tempted to do the coarse part first and the fine part last, but for some reason it's opposite in this tune in almost every version here.  The high part begins the tune, the low part ends it, so that's what I did, too.






Apple Blossom


Apple Blossom tab

Brooklynbanjoboy - Posted - 07/19/2014:  16:26:33


There's nothing "course" about your treatment of either part.  You added serious class to this tune, and that bass lick in the 8th measure is a treasure.



V/R,



Lew

 


Zischkale - Posted - 07/20/2014:  12:10:04


quote:

Originally posted by JanetB

This teacher gives you an "A", Aaron.  Nice presentation and I'd say you're ready for a jam, sober or otherwise.  The tune is a beauty.  Happy, pretty tone, Lew.




Here's what I get from both Jim Bowles and Isham Monday's recordings.  I was tempted to do the coarse part first and the fine part last, but for some reason it's opposite in this tune in almost every version here.  The high part begins the tune, the low part ends it, so that's what I did, too.










Really good to hear your version, Janet, sound great. Real pastoral sound, and the tone on that 'jo is excellent. The brushes are real crisp and not overstated at all, love the sound, reminds me of the Clawhammer County records. Do you use your middle fingernail? Excellent tablature, too!



I was practicing the thing all week starting with the coarse part, but decided otherwise at the end. It's kind of nice as a solo piece to introduce the distinctive fine part melody before digging into the tune. I probably meant to play the fine part once through then onto the rest. Thank you for sharing (and the visual's good too, I thought about searching around Google for an appropriate image to post but didn't)!


JanetB - Posted - 07/22/2014:  09:16:40


Thanks, Aaron.  I'm using my middle finger for all my clawhammering.  If the nail breaks I use a plastic Alastic pick.  When I brush I'm trying to be subtle, but a bit more pronounced if it's falling on a melody note.  I like the harmony provided when brushing, but don't do it often, as it's easy to make it too harsh.



Back to the fine part/coarse part discussion.  It's uncommon to begin a tune with the part usually called the "B part," as I hear in most of the Apple Blossom recordings.  Coincidentally, this occurred in a tune I've been working on where my absolute favorite fiddler, James Bryan, does the same thing in Hosses in the Canebrake.  The source recording for this tune begins with the normal A part, but interestingly ends on the A part, too.  I wonder why a few rare tunes don't start with the coarse part.



There's discussion in archived threads, but no real reason for reversing the A and B parts can be concluded.  After all, music is art and anything goes.  There's currently a discussion thread on this forum called "A before B except..." with this very topic:  banjohangout.org/topic/288159  Some say it's a regional thing, some say it's related to melody vs. rhythm, and you stated that the "distinctive melody" should be introduced first, and thereby draw in the listener.  Lots of thoughts there....



I read recently in an interview of an older fiddler that the coarse part, which is lower in pitch, refers to the coarseness of the lower strings--a wound or thicker string would fit this description.  The fine part is higher pitched and the strings themselves are narrower or "finer" in this sense.



Edited by - JanetB on 07/22/2014 09:19:48

Zischkale - Posted - 07/23/2014:  06:17:23


I started off with the middle nail, was so comfortable I never thought I'd change it. At some point I just transitioned over. I think I get more volume and a brighter sound out of the index, but that great tone you get must be due in part to using the middle nail. It's a rounder, mellower sound with that nail, I think. Maybe I should try and do both to give different shades to tunes.



I haven't read the thread you linked to in much detail yet (I caught a post there from Ol Woodchuck saying "don't overthink it" and haven't delved much deeper), but I'm thinking "A" and "B" isn't nearly as descriptive as "coarse" and "fine." Many fiddle tunes have distinctive coarse and fine parts, so I'm favoring that distinction. Good explanation by that fiddler!



 


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