I was listening to Roscoe Holcomb's "East Virginia Blues" last night yet again. He plays it using one chord -- I swear he never changes chords. But it's great. How the heck does he wring all of that out of one chord? And what is that "gallopy" sound he gets in "Swanno Mountain"? It isn't bum-ditty. Anyone know how he does it? I slowed it down to 50%, and it doesn't sound like any banjo style I ever heard, it sounds very syncopated in lots of the parts.
I love Roscoe Holcomb's raw,powerful music. He seems to never have been influenced by others, at least not to the point of copying anyone.One chord, 2 fingers-there's hope for me!! God bless, Pastor Harry
I do believe it was Roscoe Holcomb that collected "race" records he got from a local train conductor - memory might be a bit off however, or my source might have been full of innacuracies. I think East Virginia is done in Thumb lead (most of the time) 2 finger, but couldn't swear to it, and right at the moment can't find the cd.
The only recording I have of Roscoe Holcomb doing 'East Virginia Blues' is on Mountain Music of Kentucky. He plays it on guitar in a variant of spanish tuning: GGDGBD - the 6th and 5th strings are tuned to the same pitch. He generally uses the same thumb-lead two finger picking on the guitar that he does on the banjo. I don't hear him fingering any chords, but he uses the open tuning to provide the harmonic context and plays the melody with his thumb on the inner strings - mainly 4th and third strings. This could probably be played on the banjo with little or no change to the overall picking.
Swanno Tunnel sounds like it's played in the banjo equivalent of vestapol tuning - F-sharp D F-sharp A D. His actual pitch may be higher or lower than that - no banjo handy. This is also played in a thumb lead, two-finger style.
Thanks for the tip on the FOTM set, Chris. I've downloaded bits and pieces of that set from emusic, but somehow overlooked the material from Roscoe Holcomb. I think I was in a Jesse Fuller mood when I initially ran across it.
speaking of roscoe, I found a 5 string Kay model 52 banjo in a local antique store and almost bought it. i went back for it and it was sold. it had a deep resonator like a vega vox. roscoe removed his resonatorand played his kay as an open back.
Right Jessy, essentially that rhythm is an up-pick with the index finger on the open first string, then the thumb (on the low D string in the case of Swanno Mountain) then two quick up-picks with the index on the open first string, then the thumb again; sometimes he throws in a thumb on the fifth string between the two quick up-picks. Chris