One of my favorite fiddlers is James Bryan, born in Mentone, AL. A protege of Bluegrass great Kenny Baker, James toured and recorded with Norman Blake's Rising Fawn String Ensemble before releasing recordings under his own name. I first heard James play on the Bob Carlin album, Banging and Sawing and was immediately drawn to his lyrical, understated style and gorgeous tone.
After a lot of digging I found that James was, in my opinion, vastly under recorded. I was able to track down a copy of Two Pictures, an album he made with multi instrumentalist Carl Jones cdbaby.com/cd/jbryancjones . There is so much great music on this album...two absolute masters at work. If you don't have this stop everything and buy it now! James also has several videos on YouTube that demonstrate his masterful fiddling.
Unlike many other TOTW volunteers, I have no idea where this tune comes from. A little research on the web pointed me to a posting by the BHO's blanham banjohangout.org/archive/234724 that indicates that the tune was collected by folklorist Dr. Samuel Bayard from fiddler William Morris in the 1930's.
However, as with many old time fiddle tunes, I suspect Belles has it's roots in the British Isles and it is interesting to note that the Chieftains have recorded Belles ofBlackvilleamazon.ca/Essential-Chieftains...000E6EJ34 with Bela Fleck. I have provided a video and tab of the tune and while I indicate that it is in the key of D more knowledgeable musicians than I have suggested that it is actually in the key of A.
Either way, Belles of Blackville is a beautiful, haunting melody. I hope you enjoy playing it as much as I do. Thanks, Nick
Thanks so much, Nick, for posting on TOTW. Your 2-finger playing is SUPERB, as always, and so are your tune choices. I found I could play it clawhammer style in a different tuning, but the pitch is the same. When I chord along it seems to play in Dm and A.
Though the tune is supposed to have been collected by Samuel Bayard and he collected fiddle tunes from William Morris, I can't find the tune in the two written sources I know of -- Dance to the Fiddle, March to the Fife and Hill Country Tunes. Perhaps somebody will do more sleuthing.
Do you have another CD project in mind yet, Nick? Your Twelve By Two (Plus or Minus One) is great!
Thanks Sean and Rick! I'm glad you like the tune Cyndy. I agree...it's just about perfect. Janet....thanks as always for your kind words. Your arrangement is beautiful. What tuning are you using? I do have another album planned. This time it will be all original tunes and I am slowly getting started on the project. I've got 45 + tunes to go through and it is difficult to decide which ones will make the cut....I like them all!