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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: TOTW 26/10/2018 Vance No More – by John Salyer


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/347666

Jimbeaux - Posted - 10/25/2018:  13:45:58


Vance no More, a Kentucky fiddle tune by John Salyer

October 26, 2018



Vance no More is a crooked fiddle tune first recorded by John Salyer from Magoffin County in Eastern Kentucky. The tune is basically a fiddle version of a murder ballad by Abner Vance called “The Vance Song”. However, these two versions differ from one another significantly in terms of melody, rhythm, key and crookedness.



Here is Salyer’s version on YouTube: youtube.com/watch?v=ULXUXLGIsLg

And here a slower, modern version: youtube.com/watch?v=guu1kILwOBo



You can think of Salyer’s Vance no More as a one part tune in 2/4 timing with 19 measures, as a 2-part tune with one 9 measure and one 10 measure part, or as a 3-part tune that follows the structure AB-CB, each part played once. The A part has 4 measures and all the other parts have 5. Note that the slower version above uses the structure AB-AB-CB.



It's in A minor, so A modal tuning works well.



This is a fun tune to play around with the order of the parts and to stretch or shorten the final phrase of each part. I generally play the the first part with 4 and a half measures. I like the AB-AB-CB structure, because it gives it makes the high part a little more special.



The Vance Song (the original ballad) is included in Alan Lomax’s “Our Singing Country” on p. 322-323. It includes a transcription, which indicates some obvious differences to Salyer’s tune. The ballad is transcribed in the key of D minor instead of Salyer’s A minor, and The Vance Song ballad is in ¾ timing rather than Salyer’s 2/4. Both the ballad and the fiddle tune tend to speed up and slow down at parts, rather than holding a steady beat. I also get the feeling that the ballad is not as crooked as Salyer’s fiddle tune.



This non-steady beat and the freedom to speed up and slow down is one thing I really like about this tune. Of course it makes sense to keep a steady beat when playing it with others.



Here is the original ballad for comparison: youtube.com/watch?v=H02IGi2KBis



“Our Singing Country” includes a short history of the ballad as provided by the 85-year old Uncle Branch Higgins from Salyersvile, Ky.:

“Some hundred years ago, Abner Vance, a Baptist preacher, was hanged at Abingdon, Virginia, for the killing of Lewis Horton, who had abused Vance’s family in his absence. Horton tried to escape, jumped on his horse, and attempted to swim across a river near Vance’s house. Vance got his gun and shot him while he was fording the river. After conviction, Vance lay in prison for some time, during which he made a ballad about himself. From the prison window he looked out and saw them erect the scaffold and make the coffin upon which he stood on the day of his execution and preached his own funeral sermon. His son-in-law, Frank Browning, was present, and Vance asked him to turn his back when the trap should fall. A reprieve had been granted the doomed man, but the men who had him in charge hanged him a few minutes before it arrived.”



books.google.de/books?id=i_J4I...p;f=false



Here are the lyrics of The Vance Song ballad, which don't quite fit into Salyer's fiddle tune:



Bright shines the sun on Clinch's Hill.

So soft the west wind blows.

The valleys are lined with flowers gay,

Perfumed with the wild rose.



Green are the woods through which Sandy flows.

Peace dwells in the land.

The bear doth live in the laurel green.

The red buck roves the hills.



But Vance no more on Sandy behold

Nor drink its crystal waves.

The partial judge announced his doom.

The hunters found his grave.



There's Daniel, Bill, and Lewis,

A lie against me swore

In order to take my life away

That I may be no more.



But I and them shall meet again

When Immanuel's trumpet shall blow.

Perhaps I'll be wrapped in Abraham's bosom

When they roll in the gulf below.



My body it will be laid in the tomb.

My flesh it will decay,

But the blood that was shed on Calvary

Has washed my sins away.



Farewell, farewell, my old sweetheart,

Your face I'll see no more.

I'll meet you in the world above,

Where parting is no more.



If you are interested in learning more about John Salyer, there is a great write-up on the Old-Time Fiddler's Hall of Fame (which seems to be offline, so I've provided a link using the wayback machine):

oldtimemusic.com:80/FHOFSalyer.html">web.archive.org/web/20160818123258/oldtimemusic.com:80/FHOFSalyer.html



This discussion on fiddle hangout includes a link to download almost all of Salyer’s tunes from the Digital Library of Appalachia (it’s missing 2-3 tracks): fiddlehangout.com/archive/13299

Don't worry. It's public domain or at least freely downloadable.



If you want to learn more Salyer tunes via tab, Janet Burton has a growing resource, which includes several Salyer Tunes.: mybanjoworld.com/john-salyer-tunes



Janet will also post her take on the tune including a tab. Thank you, Janet, I’m not good at writing tabs – and I’m sure your take on the tune is more faithful than mine.



My three versions below are all slightly different takes on the original. Of the three, my solo fiddle version (AEAE tuning) is closest to the original. I take the most liberties and have the most fun with the solo banjo version (aEADE tuning). The fiddle/banjo duet with fiddler Rory Robertie is somewhere in between. We play it in G instead of a (GDGD & gDGCD tunings). All three versions are crooked, but in different ways.



I love the “oddness” of this tune. It almost begs to be adapted and re-constructed. I very eagerly await to hear other people’s takes on this tricky little number.



But remember, even if you like my versions, learn from the original!


JanetB - Posted - 10/25/2018:  18:00:17


Any John Salyer tune is a valuable addition to one's repertoire and Vance No More is quite the unusual solo.  Though it's crooked, I look at its crooked measures as a breathing space in the playing.  (I even inserted one myself in the 14th measure of my tab.)  Since it was based on a sung ballad it makes perfect sense to hold a note at the end of a phrase.  My favorite version that you uploaded is the duet with your friend, Rory Robertie.  It has a melancholy feel, but is so pretty together.  You two were totally in sync.



An interesting fact I've read about John Salyer (1882-1952) is that he played with the great Kentucky fiddler William H. Stepp (1875-1947), but thought William played "too quickly and cut corners."  But when you hear John's version it's pretty fast!   His playing is melodically breathtaking and I'm still hunting his excellent tunes in my learning journey.  Thanks for posting this one, Jim.


Edited by - JanetB on 10/25/2018 18:09:13


OldPappy - Posted - 10/26/2018:  05:02:25


Seems like most death ballads are modal, and most modal tunes in the genre I play are about death in some way.

I like this one, never heard it before, so something new.

Jimbeaux - Posted - 10/28/2018:  02:14:04


quote:

Originally posted by JanetB

Any John Salyer tune is a valuable addition to one's repertoire and Vance No More is quite the unusual solo.  Though it's crooked, I look at its crooked measures as a breathing space in the playing.  (I even inserted one myself in the 14th measure of my tab.)  Since it was based on a sung ballad it makes perfect sense to hold a note at the end of a phrase.  My favorite version that you uploaded is the duet with your friend, Rory Robertie.  It has a melancholy feel, but is so pretty together.  You two were totally in sync.



An interesting fact I've read about John Salyer (1882-1952) is that he played with the great Kentucky fiddler William H. Stepp (1875-1947), but thought William played "too quickly and cut corners."  But when you hear John's version it's pretty fast!   His playing is melodically breathtaking and I'm still hunting his excellent tunes in my learning journey.  Thanks for posting this one, Jim.






Very interesting tuning choice, Janet! I've never thought of using aDGCD for an A tune. Do you use it frequently? 

JanetB - Posted - 10/28/2018:  09:46:39


Interesting question you asked, Jim. Actually, I only used the tuning aDGCD one other time. It was for a tune I wrote recently called Storm. When I learned Vance No More I had it on a slowdowner called Anytune and just tried to match the sounds I heard. Keeping the 5th string on a G pitch seemed discordant to my ears. Notice sometimes I leave out the 5th string and just strum the other strings which were making a G chord—at that moment the A note would have been discordant in the G chord, which is the second chord of the tune.



If a tune is in Am wouldn’t it make sense to have an A note? How many of our well-known old-time modal tunes are in Am? It’s really got me wondering and I’ve not examined the actual key of sawmill modal tunes yet, though I just looked at Kitchen Girl, which is in a major key and doesn’t go well with my tuning for Vance No More. Some readers here will have explanations and I’ll look further into this.


Jimbeaux - Posted - 10/28/2018:  13:48:16


Hi Janet,

I wasn't surprised by the A drone, but by the DGCD part.

I play it in aEADE, but I recently figured out that gEADE sounds interesting, too. The natural G drone works in some A modal tunes since there is a flatted 7th. Here I do prefer the A drone, though, because I can use a Galax lick up to the high A, which is my favorite way to play the high part.

I've never messed with G modal tuning with the 5th up to A. It sounds great how you play it.

Stephen Rapp - Posted - 10/29/2018:  16:40:55


Nice job! When I first saw the tune name I was thinking "how's that gonna work on a banjo?" Besides your banjo having enough sustain, those long dramatic slides were the perfect solution.

Jimbeaux - Posted - 10/30/2018:  03:58:16


quote:

Originally posted by Stephen Rapp

Nice job! When I first saw the tune name I was thinking "how's that gonna work on a banjo?" Besides your banjo having enough sustain, those long dramatic slides were the perfect solution.






Thanks Stephen! If I still lived in Kent, maybe we'd be jamming together on this!



Actually those dramatic slides don't work all the time when playing with the fiddle, since half of the parts will end on a G natural rather than slide up to the root (A). I like the effect of sliding up to an A at the end of every phrase, so I still do it when playing solo. 



I love your tune of the week series with Paul Kirk.

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