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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: TOTW (OT) 5/20/16 - Sour Apple Pie


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/318614

Tobus - Posted - 05/20/2016:  04:26:55


For the TOTW of 5/20/16, I have chosen Sour Apple Pie.



This is a rather obscure fiddle tune that I had a difficult time finding background information on.  It does not appear to be a well-known or often-played OT tune, and isn't included in the usual popular fiddle tune collection books, but it does have OT provenance.  And despite being very simply constructed, it's just a good catchy tune, sort of reminiscent of the more popular Tommy Jarrell version of Flatwood, at least insofar as the overall fiddle effect goes.  It has a mesmerizing effect with the fiddle doing unison drones.  This tune has interested me as a fiddle player, but I like it for banjo too, even when played solo.



As far as I can tell, Sour Apple Pie comes to us from West Virginia fiddler Harvey Sampson (1909-1993).  From the liner notes of the Flat Foot in the Ashes album, he was raised in or near the small unincorporated town of Nicut, in Calhoun County, West Virginia.  As a child, he played banjo along with father David and brother Homer, both of whom were fiddlers.  During WWII while in Baltimore, he decided to take up the fiddle himself.  Instead of learning modern tunes, he stuck with music he grew up playing in West Virginia, and that's the music he continued to play.  He played mostly in cross-tuning with a fiddle style distinctive to West Virginia.



His version of the tune appears on the aforementioned album from 1986, when he played as part of the Big Possum String Band.  This band was composed of local WV musicians, including Larry Rader on banjo (who was also one of the producers of the album).  In the liner notes, Sour Apple Pie is attributed to the fiddle playing of John McCraw?/McCane? (I cannot make this last name out) of Clay and Calhoun Counties, WV.  I'm not sure if this was an older fiddler he learned it from during his childhood or if he learned it more recently.  The fiddle was noted as being tuned to DGCG for this tune.  As a side note: I can't make sense of this fiddle tuning they describe.  Based on fiddle tunings of other tunes on the album, they were listing it from high to low. In more modern parlance it would be GCGD (low to high).  This is closer to a cross-tuning that would work, but it doesn't quite work adequately for either the key of C or D, at least not the way I think it was played.  I'm curious and confused about the actual fiddle tuning, as well as they key he played it in.  More on this in a minute.



Anyway, his version of the tune also appears in the Augusta Heritage Center's Old Time Fiddling of Braxton County, West Virginia album using recordings from 1978-1991.  This album also included traditional works of other well-known fiddlers from the area such as Melvin Wine, Ernie Carpenter, etc.



More recently, it was recorded by Scott Prouty on his 2010 Puncheon Floor album.  He plays it in the key of C, and as best I can tell he's using a GDGC tuning on the fiddle (low to high).  There's no way to get the unison drone effect he's getting without the high string being at C, and he's playing out of a closed-position C-shape double-stop on the bass strings which are in standard tuning.  When I play it on the fiddle, it sounds "right" in this tuning.  It sounds like the banjo is tuned to Double C tuning, and the tablature I'm attaching is pretty much based on this version, although I've simplified the banjo part a little for playing solo when a fiddle isn't present to carry the main melody.  Full disclosure: Scott Prouty's version is the one I know, as I don't have a copy of Harvey Sampson's original recording.  In the liner notes for this album, Scott describes having spent a lot of time at the Augusta Heritage Center while growing up, and being taken by WV fiddling.  He is well known as a celebrated purveyor of that regional style.  My assumption is that his version of the tune is pretty true to the original, since that would be where he was exposed to it. 



Listen to Scotty Prouty's version on YouTube 



Here's a Youtube video of a fiddler playing it in the key of B, loosely based on the Scott Prouty version.  He has just taken the GDGC fiddle tuning and dropped it a half-step.



So what I'm thinking is that the liner notes in the Flat Foot in the Ashes album is incorrect for the fiddle tuning.  Probably a simple case of typing it incorrectly as DGCG when they meant CGDG (high to low).  This would match the Scott Prouty tuning of GDGC (low to high), and I'm assuming Scott Prouty based his tune on Harvey Sampson's playing.  But that's an assumption, since I can't find an online version of the original, so I stand to be corrected if someone else knows more about the original Sampson recording.  Or any other background info on the tune, for that matter.  Apologies for nit-picking the fiddle tuning on a banjo forum, but I know a lot of folks here play fiddle too and it's worth mentioning for posterity.



The tune is a relatively short 20 measures all the way through.  I'm defining the A part as the first 8 measures, the B part as the next 4 measures, and the C part as the last 4 measures (played twice). This makes it an ABCC format.  You could write the C part out as a full 8 measures and just call it an ABC format, but it's semantics.  Scott Prouty plays it somewhere in the neighborhood of 220 bpm, but it feels leisurely since the melody is not very complex.  There's lots of room for variation there.



Edited by - Tobus on 05/20/2016 04:28:44



Sour Apple Pie

   

Brooklynbanjoboy - Posted - 05/21/2016:  08:51:09


I think the fiddler in your Youtube link is David Rogers.


JanetB - Posted - 05/21/2016:  12:36:21


Thanks for a new tune for me, Tobin.  Scott Prouty is indeed a great fiddler and it's good to have your links here to learn of his work in keeping West Virginia music alive and well.  



I've read a bit about Harvey Sampson in Lew Stern's new book, Dwight Diller:  West Virginia Mountain Music.  Dwight played recordings of Sampson in workshops.  Though he called his fiddling "rough," Dwight went on to say that "I think part of it had to do with the kind of life, the way of life in the mountains" and that it typified many recordings of the 20's and 30's.  BTW, I'm really enjoying Lew's book -- its thoughts about music are deep and Dwight's life is interesting, as well as dramatic.




Sour Apple Pie (TOTW)

   

bhniko - Posted - 05/21/2016:  14:25:50


Happy you did this one...just amazed how you find time to quickly post to the TOTW.  I have to say I enjoyed Scott Prouty's fiddeling. Saving your tabs so if there is one for this would you consider posting it. Thanks.


Jack Baker - Posted - 05/21/2016:  15:59:26


So excellent Janet....Jack 





Originally posted by JanetB

 

Thanks for a new tune for me, Tobin.  Scott Prouty is indeed a great fiddler and it's good to have your links here to learn of his work in keeping West Virginia music alive and well.  




I've read a bit about Harvey Sampson in Lew Stern's new book, Dwight Diller:  West Virginia Mountain Music.  Dwight played recordings of Sampson in workshops.  Though he called his fiddling "rough," Dwight went on to say that "I think part of it had to do with the kind of life, the way of life in the mountains" and that it typified many recordings of the 20's and 30's.  BTW, I'm really enjoying Lew's book -- its thoughts about music are deep and Dwight's life is interesting, as well as dramatic.







 


JanetB - Posted - 05/21/2016:  18:36:09


Here's tab -- glad you liked the arrangement.  Tobin's is similar, but I went up-the-neck after the first part.  He gave me the idea to go down-the-neck on the "C" part the second time through. 




Sour Apple Pie (CH) tab

   

rickhayes - Posted - 05/21/2016:  19:32:10


Yep, nothing sour about that Janet, nicely done.


RG - Posted - 05/22/2016:  01:14:51


Scott Prouty is one of the best kept secrets in old-time music...


guitarman8491 - Posted - 05/22/2016:  06:06:57


Janet..wonderfully played and as our friend Rick said..nothing sour about it..

Clodhopper - Posted - 05/23/2016:  12:32:13


Scott isn't a BHO member, so he wasn't able to comment himself, but he asked if I could relay this information about the fiddle tuning for this tune.



 



I'm tuned to what is usually ADAD except that, as he notes, I'm down a step or so the actual tuning is GCGC. This means that I'm not playing out of a closed C position on the bass strings as he describes, but rather am riffing off the open C on the third string.



 


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