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 Playing Advice: Clawhammer and Old-Time Styles
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: TOTW (OT) 09-12-14 Boatin' Up Sandy


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/291188

Mark Johnson - Posted - 09/12/2014:  09:22:29


For your consideration this week we have the tune "Boatin Up Sandy".  There are at least two distinct tunes by this name, the one I'm submitting is most commonly associated with Owen "Snake" Chapman, as we'll see below.  This one has everything I could want in a TOTW tune... it's catchy, it can present a few technical challenges for the clawhammerist, and has an interesting history which hopefully can provoke some discussion.  Let's work backwards like archaeologists...



 



 



The tune as it shows up in jams and festivals is in A.  Most folks seem to be playing it out of A modal tuning (aEADE).  Here are some examples of the jam version:



youtube.com/watch?v=u666NUktlPE



youtube.com/watch?v=IclrPDHISTE



I have included a tab here marked as the "jam" version that follows the versions I've heard played at jams and festivals, and is a relatively stripped down banjo arrangement.



 



 



The tune is typically cited as coming from the fiddling of Owen "Snake" Chapman.  Here are some sources for his take on it, and others that are clearly aiming to capture Mr. Chapman's version:



dla.acaweb.org/cdm/singleitem/...275/rec/5  This is a field recording of Snake Chapman playing the tune, recorded by Bruce Greene in 1989.



amazon.com/Boating-Up-Sandy/dp/B0010TTHDG# A more polished version by Snake Chapman can be found on his CD "Walnut Gap", a sample of which can be heard here.



youtube.com/watch?v=5RazjK9yoE4 David Bragger has a wonderful video teaching Chapman's version on the fiddle, and he does a great job of capturing some of the nuances.



I separated the Snake Chapman versions from the "jam" version for two reasons.  1) I think one of the most striking parts of the Chapman version is the really funky syncopated phrase he plays in the B part.  At festivals and jams it seems to my ears like people tend to play it more straight than that, and I wanted to highlight that here.  2) I'm including a tab and video that are of a more nuanced/slightly melodic banjo arrangement (as opposed to the more stripped down "jam" version).  I've labeled these both as being the "Chapman" version.  For both the tab and video I'm trying to capture a bit more of what the fiddle is doing with my banjo, and also trying to preserve some of that funky B part.



The funky bits in the B part can pose a bit of a challenge for clawhammering.  In my tab I wrote out two suggested means for getting that phrase going, one that involves fretting the 5th string (gasp!) and one that requires a strong hammer on and pull off stretching from the 3rd to 7th fret.  Both are tough!  I'm not sure I ever nailed either approach in my video attempt.  I also included an alternative phrase for the triplets Chapman uses, as sometimes it sounds like he is playing the 3rd and 4th, other times like he is using a minor and major 3rd for a bluesier sound.



 



 



Snake Chapman cited Thaddeus Baker, Kenny Baker's father, as being his source for the tune.  Here is a YouTube video with what is apparently a home recording of Thaddeus Baker playing the tune, as captured by his son:



youtube.com/watch?v=kmPKq6W4pWs



While clearly the same tune, the B parts are very significantly different.  Baker's B part is half the length of the Chapman and jam versions, and very straight.  I've included a tab of this version, identified as the Baker version, and recorded a quick video attempt at the version too.  The video isn't perfect, at least in following Baker's playing or the tab I made, as my fingers kept drifting back to the other versions of the tune.



This single tune kind of highlights the folk process in overdrive.  Snake Chapman learns the tune from Thaddeus Baker, but apparently added his own flourishes to the B part [whether deliberately or not].  Chapman's version ends up more complex and at least syncopated if not downright screwy.  The tune gains popularity as the longer Chapman version, but some of the funky gets flattened out in the process.  



 



 



There are no shortage of other recordings of this tune on YouTube, cds, and the web generally.  I didn't want to make this an overwhelming first post, so please feel free to mention other versions you know of and enjoy.  And of course I hope some of you see fit to post your own!



-Mark



Edited by - Mark Johnson on 09/12/2014 12:52:58



Boatin Up Sandy - Jam Version


Boatin Up Sandy - Chapman Version


VIDEO: Boatin Up Sandy - Chapman Version (w/ Surprise Cat)
(click to view)


Boatin Up Sandy - Baker Version


VIDEO: Boatin Up Sandy - Thaddeus Baker Version
(click to view)

   

blockader - Posted - 09/12/2014:  10:19:30


Great TOTW, Mark! I've been meaning to learn this one on fiddle, this is the kick on the ass i needed.

vrteach - Posted - 09/12/2014:  11:26:10


Cool. I was hoping that I could right away add a version, but alas I find that I play the Wilson Douglas version of Boatin' up the Sandy, in my interpretation of the interpretation by the Deseret String Band (unfortunately the clips on CDbaby don't include the tune in question). Anyway, that version matches what is in the Fiddler's Fakebook. Unfortunately I don't have a copy of the Fakebook, so I can't report the sources listed there. So, I'm only marginally relevant here, other than saying "great tune, gotta learn that".


janolov - Posted - 09/12/2014:  11:48:18


There are four different versions of Boatin' Up Sandy in the Milliner - Koken Collection of American Fiddle Tunes which can be listened to at the slipperyhill website:



Lexie Baker the book contains notation of Baker's version, but the audio is  a Field Recording made by Barbara Edwards (Kunkle) and J.P. Fraley



Charlie Bowman and Elvis Alderman (Hill Billies)



George Hawkins



Delbert Hughes



 


janolov - Posted - 09/12/2014:  12:06:23


I am sorry if I am a nitpicker, but when I began to tune the banjo I discovered an error about the tuning in the tabs.  Both in  the Chapman tab and jam tab I read "Tuning aEAC#E (gDGCD capo 2)". I  assume you mean "Tuning aEADE (gDGCD capo 2)". 



Edited by - janolov on 09/12/2014 12:06:47

mbuk06 - Posted - 09/12/2014:  12:33:38


Here is my favourite version;  Norman Edmonds playing this fabulous tune. I believe this relates to the Charlie Bowman version posted above.



 



Edited by - mbuk06 on 09/12/2014 12:35:51

Mark Johnson - Posted - 09/12/2014:  12:59:23


quote:

Originally posted by janolov

I am sorry if I am a nitpicker, but when I began to tune the banjo I discovered an error about the tuning in the tabs.  Both in  the Chapman tab and jam tab I read "Tuning aEAC#E (gDGCD capo 2)". I  assume you mean "Tuning aEADE (gDGCD capo 2)". 







Not nitpicking at all, that was a mistake on my part and I'm very glad someone caught it early.  I have corrected the tabs.



I have also uploaded all three [corrected] tabs to the BHO database, there as both PDFs and as Tabledit files, should anyone prefer the latter.



 



Does anyone know more info about Lexie Baker?  Is that a relative of Kenny / Thaddeus?  The version is the same as Thaddeus', I'm wondering if there is a family relationship.



 



Edited by - Mark Johnson on 09/12/2014 13:03:12

janolov - Posted - 09/12/2014:  13:06:51


quote:

Originally posted by Mark Johnson

 



Does anyone know more info about Lexie Baker?  Is that a relative of Kenny / Thaddeus?  The version is the same as Thaddeus', I'm wondering if there is a family relationship.




 







According to a thread in FiddleHangout: Lexie had a brother named Thaddeus, father to fiddler of some note named Kenny.



Edited by - janolov on 09/12/2014 13:07:30

JanetB - Posted - 09/12/2014:  21:04:09


Nice first post, Mark.  Hope you'll do another before the year is out.  I knew that I'd never heard of a tune called Surprise Cat!  Your coverage of the tune is thorough and I'm glad to learn another from Snake Chapman's fiddling.  In the liner notes of the Walnut Gap CD Mark Wilson tells of Thaddeus Baker coming to Snake's house one time seeking to play with him after hearing from Kenny about Snake's fiddling.  Snake's memory was so good that he remembered a few tunes from Thaddeus and Boating Up Sandy is one of them.



I first heard of Snake Chapman through the talented and big-hearted BHO member Jim Reed, also of Pike County.  Jim describes in an interview how Snake and musical partner Paul David Smith visited the Reed family household when Jim was a child.  They mentored to him and encouraged his banjo playing.  Here's a link to the interview:  banjocrazy.com/articles/reed_1.shtml



This arrangement is in open G tuning and is relatively slow--I get the feeling of a cautious boat trip in the wilderness.  It's usually played as a breakdown--perhaps a wilder ride on the river.




Boating Up Sandy (TOTW)


Boating Up Sandy (tab in open G tuning)

bc5000 - Posted - 09/16/2014:  19:57:04


yes


sarahwood3587 - Posted - 09/22/2014:  17:01:41


http://idigbluegrass.com/kentucky-wild-horse-boatin-up-sandy-morehead-old-time-music-festival-2013/



Here's my favorite! Jesse Wells with Kentucky Wildhorse



 



Upon reflection, maybe it's weird to post a link to a band without a banjo on this forum, but I think it's still pretty rock-and-roll without the benefit of a banjo : -)



Edited by - Bill Rogers on 09/24/2014 23:06:53

bc5000 - Posted - 09/24/2014:  20:40:15


quote:


Originally posted by sarahwood3587

idigbluegrass.com/kentucky-wil...val-2013/



Here's my favorite! Jesse Wells with Kentucky Wildhorse




 




Upon reflection, maybe it's weird to post a link to a band without a banjo on this forum, but I think it's still pretty rock-and-roll without the benefit of a banjo : -)







Not at all Sarah, really liked that fiddle.


JanetB - Posted - 09/25/2014:  06:15:54


Sarah's link is paying tribute to Paul David Smith, who recorded banjo on Snake Chapman's CDs.  Mark Wilson states that Paul learned the tune on fiddle from Thaddeus Baker separately from Snake, but that they play it with identical bowing.  (Mark must have seen them playing it side-by-side.)  Here's a snippet from Paul's CD "Devil Eat the Groundhog:" (track 8)  allmusic.com/album/devil-eat-t...000046921




Mark Johnson - Posted - 09/25/2014:  07:46:16


Agreed, nothing wrong with a no banjo version of the tune here.  Those guys are great players.



 



Does anyone know if the 2nd fiddle on Paul David Smith's album is Snake Chapman?  It kind of sounds like it might be, but it's hard to tell for sure.  The "credits" online list him as an arranger, but make no mention of anyone besides Paul playing fiddle.



I find it interesting that Paul learned the tune straight from Thaddeus, like Mr. Chapman did, but appears to play the B part differently from Baker and just like Chapman.  I'd love to know whether Baker actually played it that way, or Paul and Snake played it together so many times after first learning it that their takes began to mirror one another, or what.



As a completely random aside, I was considering the tune "Devil Eat the Groundhog" as the TOTW too.  


greenbrooms - Posted - 06/19/2015:  06:54:42


sorry to revive such an old thread, but your videos have opened a whole new window for me. 



besides tempos, accuracy, left- and right-hand techniques, etc., there has been SOMETHING separating the sound of all you seasoned clawhammer-ers and someone who has been playing for 5 months or so. it finally hit me in the face after watching mark's snake chapman videos (boatin' up sandy, rock andy), all you veterans can SWING! it's so subtle, but the use of accents and the slightest hint of a dotted eighth-sixteenth rhythm (instead of straight eighth notes) makes such a tremendous difference in this style of playing. 



coming from a background of bass trombone in big bands and small combos, i can't believe i didn't pick that up sooner - maybe i'm just used to hearing it so it sounded normal? taking it for granted? i don't know, doesn't really matter now - i'm just thankful i figured it out! 



so yea, sorry again to bring this old thread to the top, but i wanted to say thanks to mark and everyone else on these forums i've listened to - super super helpful!! 


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