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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: TOTW, 1/9/15, Farewell Trion

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JanetB - Posted - 01/09/2015:  09:00:05

Farewell Trion has been one of my favorite fiddle tunes ever since hearing it on “Banging and Sawing”—that seminal set of recordings with Bob Carlin’s banjo and several great fiddlers, including James Bryan of Alabama.   If you’ve never listened to the tune, you’re in for a treat: original recording of Farewell Trion with James Bryan fiddle, Bob Carlin banjo, Norman Blake guitar.  It’s no wonder James is also my favorite fiddle player.

History of the tune:   One reads a short description in the Traditional Tune Archive website that James Bryan learned Farewell Trion from Mack Blaylock (1914 – 1987).  They are from the same region near Lookout Mountain in Alabama.  Mack learned it from his great-uncle, Joe Blaylock (born 1854) who had worked at the mill in Trion, Georgia but was laid off and went back home to Alabama.  The original tune had two parts.  James added the third part in the 1980’s.  Several musicians have since recorded it, a notable one being Chris Coole with Ivan Rosenburg on a CD in 2010 named  “Farewell Trion.”

I’ve long been curious about the town and the mill, and discovered that the mill, which began 170 years ago, is still very much alive today—in fact, you may be wearing clothing milled in Trion.   History of the mill in Trion, Georgia (1847 - present) is a good on-line synopsis.  It describes the name Trion as derived from the three mill founders in 1850; tells of the mill’s Civil War contribution to woolen uniforms; and brags of its current use of 2,500,000 pounds of cotton each year to produce denim. 


In 1845 the three partners bought property on the Chatooga River to build a dam for powering their new cotton manufacturing mill.  The local Post Office name then became Trion Factory—“tri” for the three founders.  The town was incorporated in 1862 and was thereafter just called Trion.  In 1875 the mill burned down—perhaps the date when Joe Blaylock was laid off and wrote Farewell Trion as he returned home to Alabama.  It was quickly rebuilt and continued to grow until it became the enormous company today known as Mount Vernon Mills.

The mill currently makes denim for jeans, including the pro-rodeo jeans seen many times in my neck of the woods.  The same denim is used to make $12 jeans - $150 designer jeans.   It differs from other cloth in that the cotton rope used in the lengthwise weave is dyed before the fabric is woven, and the filling line that goes across is left white, as opposed to dying the entire fabric after it’s been woven.  Mount Vernon Mills supplies denim for Wrangler Jeans, Walmart, Dickies, and Carhartt, to name a few, and is said to be the #1 manufacturer of denim.  For details see this good 8 minute video describing the current operation of the mill.

Back to the tune:   Here are some videos and MP3s of Farewell to Trion, and there are several more on the Banjo Hangout Jukebox:

 A younger James Bryan

 Chris Coole and Ivan Rosenburg

Nick Hornbuckle picking Farewell Trion

And here’s a tab for 3-finger pickers from Don Borchelt:  Farewell Trion tab on

Farewell Trion is in the key of C.  I’ve enjoyed picking and clawhammering this tune, and recently arranged a simpler down-the-neck version in double C tuning which is heard on the second half of the following MP3.  Hope you enjoy this TOTW and give it a try.  Your input and comments are always appreciated.

Edited by - JanetB on 03/09/2015 16:27:47

Farewell Trion (CH)

Farewell Trion, up-the-neck tab

Farewell Trion, down-the-neck tab

bornold - Posted - 01/09/2015:  09:04:55

Wow a great tune I always love how soft and sweet your playing is. Time to get workin!

llrevis - Posted - 01/09/2015:  09:42:37

Bravo Janet.  My favorite tune from my favorite old time recording.


BANJOJUDY - Posted - 01/09/2015:  10:31:31

Great tune.  Thanks for bringing it (back) to my attention.  Carlin's playing is superb on that Banging and Sawing album.  I have another version by a young man, Ari Winnick who passes through our area from time to time, from an album called "Glory Beams" - you can listen to part of it here.  Ari's version is delightful.  Have a listen.


JanetB - Posted - 01/09/2015:  15:22:10

I'm glad to hear this is another good tune to share and learn more about.  Judy, I listened to Ari's recordings and he's got a gentle, rhythmic touch.  I also saw him on a video with Yigal--nice duet.

Lew H - Posted - 01/09/2015:  17:37:00

Lovely--as always, Janet.

Brooklynbanjoboy - Posted - 01/10/2015:  02:36:05

Great tune from a great CD.  Done with distinction.  Thanks for sharing,


richmberman - Posted - 01/10/2015:  12:00:50

Thank you Janet, for a version as sweet as James Bryan's fiddling. Thanks for the tab.

bhniko - Posted - 01/10/2015:  14:22:31

You play tunes so tenderly as if each has a special place in your heart.

JanetB - Posted - 01/11/2015:  08:36:39

Thanks for your lovely comments.

Bob Carlin's album Banging and Sawing was recorded in the 80's.  The fiddlers he invited for a banjo duet are amongst the best and James Bryan became my favorite.  When I met Bob a few years ago he was in John Hartford's String Band, accompanying him on his newly designed Gold Tone banjo (which he offered for sale to the audience!) and I also became aware of his new book about Joe Sweeney and minstrelsy. 


More recently we watched an episode of BHO member Craig Evan's DVD series called North American Banjo Builders, Vol. 3, where he featured Bob Carlin as a banjo historian.  One gets to know the interviewees in these episodes.  Bob is a happy, energetic researcher and banjo picker who looks at himself as a musical "disseminator."  He sure did us a service with Banging and Sawing nearly 30 years ago.  Here's a link to Craig's site if you're interesting in these great DVDs: 


Don Huber - Posted - 01/11/2015:  10:54:20

I'm more than a bit uncomfortable listening to a tune played by somebody pimping private-label Chinese banjos about an industry being decimated by cheap slave and child labor working in firetraps.

James Bryan is my favorite living fiddler. With Kenny Baker gone, I find his tone the best.

Thank you for mentioning James wrote the 3rd part. Didn't know that.

Edited by - Don Huber on 01/11/2015 10:55:06

Tom Berghan - Posted - 01/11/2015:  13:08:23

Great posts Janet!  Thank you for bringing attention to this beautiful melody.  It was composed only a few decades ago . . . but, like "Ashokan Farewell," it has entered the repertoire of "Old Time" musicians. 

Thank you also for putting a spot-light on Bob Carlin.  He is quite overlooked in the year 2015 (in my opinion) and yet is one of the very best clawhammer banjoists ever in my opinion.

I like your arrangement very much.  I did a recording a few years back on which I played ten thousand instruments . . . or maybe it was five . . . but there are four different sizes banjos played on the recording . . . plus guitar . . . regardless here it is.  I think I like yours much better!  Best Wishes, Tom


Farewell Trion


JanetB - Posted - 01/11/2015:  13:51:25

Thanks for the warm, positive feedback, Tom, and for including your version of Farewell Trion.  I like how your third note in the second measure of the A part goes down to a G note.  Your use of an Am chord is unique to me, too.  Very nice.  I wonder if Joe had mixed feelings when having to leave Trion, Georgia to go back home to Alabama.   That's what the minor chord does to my perception of the tune.  You used four different banjos?!  I've got to learn multi-tracking one of these days...

I'd venture to say that the tune is actually very old.  Joe Blalock was born in 1854 and he wrote the tune after being laid off from his mill job in Trion.  His great-nephew, Mack Blalock, learned it from him and then taught it to James Bryan.

Here's one Kit and I recorded when I was picking this 3-finger style in open G.  He's playing mandolin.  I hope to hear more versions here.

Farewell Trion--3-finger


Tom Berghan - Posted - 01/11/2015:  14:18:16


Originally posted by JanetB

You used four different banjos?!  

Yep . . . the first one you hear is the clawhammer banjo (regular 5 string openback banjo) . . . and then the bass line is being played on a bass banjo (34 inch scale) . . . the second one is the soprano banjo (four strings) and later followed by a four string banjo tuned as a baritone (GDAE, one octave below the soprano).

ScottK - Posted - 01/11/2015:  17:17:33

Great write-up and beautiful picking, Janet.  I'm a huge fan of James Bryan's fiddling as well.  I've been working on learning his version of Sam Hill on fiddle recently.

A few years ago we had the privilege of hosting James Bryan and Carl Jones for a house concert and they stayed at our house for a couple of nights.  James totally captivated my wife with the beauty of his fiddling, which is not a usual occurrence.  :-) 

My son Erik plays fiddle in an Irish Trad band here in Portland called Na Rósaí.  They like to throw a few old time tunes in their line up and one of the tunes they include is Farewell Trion.  You can hear a sample of them playing it here.


JanetB - Posted - 01/11/2015:  17:37:25

Thanks, Scott, for the fantastic addition to our discussion of James Bryan.  I have happy thoughts of your house guests and their ability to wow your wife with that smooth fiddle music.  What is it about his bowing that creates that magic sound?  Your son's duet of Farewell Trion with the whistle is truly nice and gives it a Celtic flair.  James plays many Celtic tunes, too.  BTW, what does Na Rosai mean? 

CamC - Posted - 01/11/2015:  20:41:59

Wonderful tune of the week and great playing Janet, I used your down the neck tab to learn it.

VIDEO: Farewell To Trion
(click to view)


JanetB - Posted - 01/11/2015:  21:00:00

Awesome, Cam!  I like it very much.  You've made it your own, too, with your high energy, triplets, and full strums.  Now let's see it on a banjo uke!   big

Don Borchelt - Posted - 01/12/2015:  11:01:46

A great choice for Tune of the Week, Janet, and a very well-detailed presentation.  Wonderful picking, too, you get the most incomparable tone out of your banjo, just amazing.  I also enjoyed Nick's beautiful playing, with those clean and tasteful trills and tripletts.  Another picker with super tone; it sorely tempts me to dig out one of mastertones from the closet.  Tom Berghan shows once again that nobody on the BHO knows his way around anything with strings on it the way he does, a true "string man," the rest of us are just dilettantes.  And of course, tine picking also by Cam. I always love the fine chug he gets in his picking, just a terrific, gutsy right hand stroke.   I like to hear a little devil in my angel band.

Here is my version, worked up  some months ago as part of an effort by my friend John Reddick and I to increase our repertoire of C tunes.   I am three-finger picking my 1902 Fairbanks Whyte Laydie, in double C tuning (gCGCD).

- Don Borchelt

VIDEO: Farewell Trion
(click to view)


bhniko - Posted - 01/12/2015:  12:53:51

Tom, Janet and Don.

Listening to the three of you makes me fell like I belong in Janet's Kindergarden Banjo Class (before her retirement). Nice to hear Kit accompanying Janet. I realized that my former comment of playing from the heart was not addressed to you time I will be more careful. Janet thanks for tabbing your songs...and Farewell Trion is worh learning...ahh they all are.

Edited by - bhniko on 01/12/2015 12:54:33

JanetB - Posted - 01/12/2015:  17:26:07

Always very special to hear your fluid, rolling portrayals of fiddle tunes, Don.  And Richard, you're always so kind.  I'm wistful, also, about contemplating the myriad tunes I'd like to learn, but haven't yet.

Thinking of Tom's banjo orchestra, here's an attempt on my Gold Tone cello banjo with its 14" pot.  And I hope to hear yet more versions of Farewell Trion before the week is up and another TOTW enters our lives.

VIDEO: Farewell Trion
(click to view)


CamC - Posted - 01/18/2015:  17:47:35

A little out of my comfort zone, but here's my attempt at Don's 3finger arrangement.

VIDEO: Farewell Trion
(click to view)


JanetB - Posted - 01/18/2015:  19:22:50

That's beautiful, Cam.  Don will be happy, too.  I couldn't imagine a prettier 3-finger arrangement for Farewell Trion.

Don Borchelt - Posted - 01/18/2015:  21:05:49

Great job of picking on the cheller banjer, Janet.  Fine playing, Cam, well done.  It's very gratifying to see someone get some enjoyment out of one of my tabs.  You nailed it.

CamC - Posted - 01/18/2015:  21:35:52

Thanks Janet, and Don, thank you for the wonderful arrangement and tab, I had a great time learning it.

Don Huber - Posted - 01/19/2015:  08:42:50

I keep waiting for Don B. do an arrangement of a tune that doesn't enthrall me, but it just won't happen.

Edited by - Don Huber on 01/19/2015 08:43:15

JanetB - Posted - 01/19/2015:  09:27:52


Originally posted by Don Huber

I keep waiting for Don B. do an arrangement of a tune that doesn't enthrall me, but it just won't happen.

I second that.  Don's fluidity and warmth would melt an iceberg.  I put Jim Reed in that category, too. 

Don Huber - Posted - 01/19/2015:  09:39:38

You too!

jojo25 - Posted - 01/20/2015:  07:54:19

what a wonderful crazy crooked tune!...thanks Janet...very well done presentation...just on the edge of my skill set...which is the best place to be for growth...and now my current obsession...loving the caramel smooth slides on this tune on Josie, my "new" flush fret fretless

JanetB - Posted - 01/20/2015:  19:53:15

Every good banjo needs a name, Joe.  A flush fret fretless would be advantageous to someone like me who looks at my left hand much of the time.  It would be great to hear the tune on a fretless, especially with those slides you can make.  I'm glad you like the tune and are giving it a try.  The down-the-neck version is simpler if you claw. 

Thanks, Don!

jojo25 - Posted - 02/04/2015:  20:17:22

finally got around to making a vid of this...still in development...but lordy are those slides fun!


JanetB - Posted - 02/04/2015:  20:24:35

It's amazing where these tunes can take us, especially with the innovative, improvising nature of the musician in us.  When Joe Blalock left Trion way back in the 1800's he never imagined we'd be taking his tune this far. 

I was just pondering a flush fretless and thinking how much easier it might be to play than a bare neck.  What do you think? Thanks for sharing, Joe.  Enjoy your Josie.

jojo25 - Posted - 02/04/2015:  21:20:32

Janet...unless you are gonna be moving the bridge some here at BHO have suggested for a fretless...then the flush frets are a wonderful aid...I do not think I will be buying into the "move the bridge" school of fretless life...but to each his/her own...right away I was able to go up the neck and do things on the fretless that I had been led to believe were not some ways the up the neck stuff is easier than down the neck on the fretless...less slop...but the much fun that...and this is embarrassing to admit...the slides actually make me drool!!...a little:)...and..added better half loves the fretless!

jojo25 - Posted - 02/04/2015:  22:43:18

I love how Bryan mixes up the parts in this

and some questions...

It seems to me that in most...if not all...of the versions I have heard here...I don't here that sweet long C note in the B part...that C note that rings over the F for me...I hold that note...maybe even longer than it "should" be held

and the C seems that James is not doing what I see in the tab...gotta do me a lot more listening to that

and...I seem to be playing it faster than the rest of ya...and here I thought I was becoming a geezer:)

jojo25 - Posted - 02/04/2015:  22:52:44

and this fiddle/guitar version I find quite intriguing

JanetB - Posted - 02/05/2015:  06:01:54

Good observations, Joe, and your link included one of the videos I originally had in the thread, but then couldn't use the link.  You found a mix of three versions including Tashina Clarridge's with Jeffrey Hamer.  (Tashina had her own innovations, too, and she's one heckuva great fiddler).  

I keep repeating this story over and over about James recording with Mike Compton, my favorite mandolin player.  Mike told this story to my husband, Kit, during one of their lessons.  He said that during the recording session James stopped the group and wanted the tune slowed down, stating that in his opinion, it would therefore sound better.  Yesterday in my Skype lesson with Adam Hurt I had to play Oyster River Hornpipe, via Adam via James Bryan, and I decided to slow it down and have the best chance of playing it without mistakes.  Adam's response was how he liked it smoothly slowed down like that and felt that was the way it ought to be played (hear my sigh of relief approve).  Let's hear it for wise, old geezers like us!

That long C note in the B part over the F chord I call the plateau of the piece.  As my banjo can't hold that long note I just played the notes of an F chord --F, A, C.  It would be interesting to figure out some other ways to portray James' long note at that point.  Playing along with him (and Bob Carlin and Norman Blake) was my preferred way to learn it, and using a slow-downer with the "repeat" on one phrase at a time helped me. 

So....please continue to share your learning journey of Farewell Trion.  There really aren't enough videos of it and it remains at the top of my list of all-time special tunes.

Regarding the bridge being moved around, I'd never thought about that until I picked up my little gourd banjo the other day and wasn't getting the good earthy tone I liked.  I changed bridges due to the hide head having shrunk and also moved the bridge down.  That gave me back the tone and was quite a revelation for me -- I'm so used to putting the bridge in the "right place" where the intonation is best on a fretted instrument.  But for a fretless, I'd like the visual aids of frets you can get and would be able to do other things to improve the tone if need be.  Thanks for sharing your observations, especially the one about the ease of going up the neck.

Page47 - Posted - 02/05/2015:  10:20:40

Farewell Trion or Farewell TO Trion?  I've seen it both ways...


VIDEO: Farewell Trion
(click to view)


swampyankee11 - Posted - 02/05/2015:  11:21:17

Nicely done! Thank you.
Love the tone of your banjo.What is it and what strings are you using?

JanetB - Posted - 02/05/2015:  12:34:12

That was really beautiful, Page47, even bittersweet.  Your Farewell Trion captures the feeling I have toward my upcoming June retirement from 30 years of teaching.  Farewell Covillaud!  (BTW, I've used Farewell Trion as the title because that was how it's called in the CD Banging and Sawing, the first recording of it we have available.)  (Another BTW, why the moniker Page47?)

Page47 - Posted - 02/05/2015:  12:55:41

@swampyankee11: Pisgah Dobson Ramber, Calf Skin head, Romero Bridge and custom string gauge set (.011, .013, .015, .024B, .011).

@JanetB: thanks for the nice comments. Honestly, I'm going through a difficult time in my life right now and melancholy / bittersweet is exactly what I'm feeling. It is actually nice to hear that I was able to express that in my playing. 47 is a number that comes up from time to time in conspiracy or supernatural discussions. Often, the secrets are revealed on page 47 of the mysterious manuscript or something like that. Honestly, I've just used that name for sites that I've registered for since I first found out about the internet :)

swampyankee11 - Posted - 02/05/2015:  13:41:22

Thanks very much for the details. Great tune, great tone and great playing! I hope things get better for you in the near future.
Best Regards!

jojo25 - Posted - 02/05/2015:  17:05:47

Page...trey bien!! And no "to"...u r right, of course...thanks 2 u I learned that opening melody...much obiliged!!

Zischkale - Posted - 02/06/2015:  12:21:55


Originally posted by jojo25

finally got around to making a vid of this...still in development...but lordy are those slides fun!


Great sounds with those drawn-out slides, man that sounds like a blast. Need to get me a proper fretless 'jo!

Don Huber - Posted - 02/06/2015:  13:37:32

There was a more recent version of Farewell Trion on YouTube from Bear on the Square featuring Carl Jones on guitar with James, but it was pulled for some reason. Too bad.

Feo - Posted - 03/05/2015:  14:19:15

Well , a month late and a dollar short , that's me ... always liked this tune , just never put it together .....

Now that Don Huber has learned this tune I guess I'd better get it under my belt too , so I can play it with him ... I haven't posted music in a few years because I've had little or no internet out here in the Ozarks ..... this recording is the first time I tried to record two instruments together on the program Audacity .... wow , it was almost impossible ...there is such a lag time between the moment you pluck a note and when it finally comes out of the headphone .... does anyone have a cure for this ?

Here's my Farewell Trion .... Im playing the fiddle and cheapy banjo on this one . I usually use special banjo tunings for fiddle tunes but on Farewell Trion Im going to use my 2-finger Missouri backup style that I use on singing tunes out here ... its a challenge on a complicated fiddle tune ... Im kind of going for that John Hartford sound ... :-)

The tune is cut short because of the Audacity lag got too bad ...

Farewell Trion


JanetB - Posted - 03/05/2015:  17:07:39

I'm glad you put it together, Jimmy, also warning us novices of the difficulty of multi-tracking.  Still, it's nice to hear your two instruments together.  Thanks for sharing your recording and I hope you solve the challenges facing you.  I'd also really like to know how it's done properly.  Think I'll keep it solo for now, or play Farewell Trion with my mandolinist husband.

adri - Posted - 03/06/2015:  00:14:40

So is Janet's original mp3 picked or clawhammered?


JanetB - Posted - 03/06/2015:  05:42:51

I labeled the tune titles so it's clear now.  I'm currently enjoying the clawhammer one in double C tuning.

Don Borchelt - Posted - 03/06/2015:  05:53:44

Some great versions posted by Joe, Jimmy and Page47 (if that's his real name!).  Very inspiring.

Don Huber - Posted - 03/06/2015:  16:07:32

Wasn't gonna post the version my wife and I play since there are so many great efforts already posted, but people cannot seem to get enough of this tune. Probably cannot get enough of James Bryan either. I'd pay to hear him tune up.

Edited by - Don Huber on 03/06/2015 16:07:59

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