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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: TOTW 8/01/2020 'High on a Mountain'


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/371607

BelfastFiveString - Posted - 01/07/2021:  04:37:51


A warm hello from the cold North of Ireland with this week's tune, High on a Mountain from Ola Belle Reed. Having spent three years learning the banjo mostly through the TOTW series, it's a real treat to be doing one myself. Thanks Janet for organising this, it's a heck of a resource.



Born as Ola Wave Campbell in 1916 she developed musical skill from a young age through her family. Both generations above her were musicians with the more talented forming New River Boys and Girls who were performing in her early years.



Spending sixteen years in the mountains of North Carolina, Ola moved North to the Pennsylvania/ Maryland border with her family in search for work in the aftermath of the Great Depression. She was talented enough to score work through music in the blossoming radio scene and as a support for more established players through the 1930s, 40s and 50s.



Noticed as a local treasure, Ola was recorded by folklorist Glassie Reed during the months around her fiftieth birthday. These recordings were her first solo professional recordings and would lead to a further twenty years for Ola. 



Ola married Bud Reed in 1949 and took the name Ola Belle Reed. Like the family she was born into, Ola's own family became a musical hub. Ola and Bud taught their children to play and together they produced records with her seldom performing alone. Multitudes of Ola's recordings have excellent fiddle and guitar work, the latter especially from Bud, compliment her banjo to the level that the instruments all seem to melt into one. For me, and I guess for others, this makes the job of tabbing and replicating Ola note-for-note quite the challenge! Luckily for us, I'm sure letting her songs live and evolve would be very much of the mindset she had.



Ola was a strong, progressive woman whose songs sing for love, loyalty and loss and reflect both the hardships and beauties of life. Timeless themes, together with old-time musical stylings, have meant she has continued to be treasured and admired after he death in 2002 following a long bout of illness. 



Ola's music is well represented by banjoists today with a number of tabs and discussions of her here. A quick search for her and 'clawhammer' brings up numerous results of players playing with her tunes and finding that sound that makes us smile. 



I used a number of YouTube videos to help me tab and learn this. My version is some variation on the work by people herehere and here. I was drawn to learn it from an adaption by contemporary alt-country player Kelsey Waldon which I have enjoyed tremendously. Ola herself recorded it a number of times. Her finest is probably from the 'My Epitath' Folkways release in 1976. I take a lot of liberties in my version and break it into a simple A and B pattern and adjust the B part liberally so that, if sang, it would suit a lower (male) voice. 



It follows a very simple pattern of moving between G, F and C and some playing about on the third fret. If you can play Cuckoo or Shortening Bread, you can play this and you will easily make your own version up as you go. 



Writing tab was difficult for me to do, healthcare work is difficult and all consuming at the moment and the actual tabbing was made all the harder by the tab sheets! It was some mission to find a printer who was open and by the time I'd come home and realised how small the tab print was I just cracked on with it. I'll learn to use tab software these coming weeks, update it and post a new tab (probably informed by everyone elses replies to this) into the proper place in Hangout. I've put two videos forward, one of a shorter performance and one that is slower and closer that should aide learning. 



Have a safe and very happy New Year.



 


Edited by - BelfastFiveString on 01/07/2021 04:50:24




carlb - Posted - 01/07/2021:  07:26:48


Thanks. Love Ola Belle's songs.

Hay-on-Wye - Posted - 01/08/2021:  07:33:35


Nice tune of the week as I’d never heard of Bella Reid before so thanks for bringing her to my attention.

banjo bill-e - Posted - 01/08/2021:  07:56:13


Her music is pure and real and touches me every time.

JanetB - Posted - 01/08/2021:  10:20:48


So glad you're presenting, Alex!  You get an A+ for a wonderful first-time TOTW presentation -- a winner and a classic.  I used to think that the Del McCourey Band was the one rendition that dominated and it's of course bluegrass, but Ola wrote the song.  I saw a video with Cathy Fink and now realize that High on a Mountain is old-time and came before the many bluegrass takes.  Cathy Fink & the Whynots?.



I listened to Ola to arrange this.  When I played an open G chord on the strumming rhythm I decided to eliminate the B note and replaced it with a fretted D note on the second string.  The first half of my arrangement is based on her banjo solo, the second half is from her singing.


BelfastFiveString - Posted - 01/08/2021:  13:05:07


quote:

Originally posted by JanetB

So glad you're presenting, Alex!  You get an A+ for a wonderful first-time TOTW presentation -- a winner and a classic.  I used to think that the Del McCourey Band was the one rendition that dominated and it's of course bluegrass, but Ola wrote the song.  I saw a video with Cathy Fink and now realize that High on a Mountain is old-time and came before the many bluegrass takes.  Cathy Fink & the Whynots?.



I listened to Ola to arrange this.  When I played an open G chord on the strumming rhythm I decided to eliminate the B note and replaced it with a fretted D note on the second string.  The first half of my arrangement is based on her banjo solo, the second half is from her singing.






Thanks a lot, Janet. I had always heard Olas version and then Kelsey Waldons more recently. Wasnt at all aware that others cover it. 



 



Learn something new everyday!

WVDreamin - Posted - 01/09/2021:  18:00:46


I read a discussion about the lyrics and Del McCourey said he learned it from Ola. I prefer his (and her) "...on a mountain, oh..." to the "... a mountain top..." version I hear most of the time. It loses some of the emotional edge to my ear.

Great song and tune. I like what I'm hearing!

Sam Alone - Posted - 01/11/2021:  01:54:00


Going to try myself on this one!

John Gribble - Posted - 01/12/2021:  00:28:23


She was the real deal and I love that song. Good work!

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