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TOTW 22 May 2020 - Oscar Wright's "Sandy River"

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May 22, 2020 - 10:59:03 AM
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RG

USA

3030 posts since 8/7/2008

This is a "re-visit" of a former TOTW originally posted by Dock Jekel back in November 2010 https://www.banjohangout.org/archive/192541.  Dock posted this the week after I had posted Oscar Wright's "Shaving a Dead Man", so it was a great follow up to an old-time banjo player who unfortunately is largely forgotten by many players.  Notable in the old thread was an AWESOME three finger version posted by Don Borchelt, it's a must listen.

"Sandy River" is one of those great old-time "trance" tunes... I rarely utilize a lot of variations when I play it. "Sandy River"  was one of the first tunes I learned back in the early 70's when I first started playing, a true banjo tune as there is no fiddle tune counterpart to it.  I like that.

Oscar Wright was a multi-instrumentalist who lived in Princeton WVa.  I first heard his playing on the County Clawhammer Vol. 2 LP (the three record series is a MUST for anyone remotely interested in old-time banjo https://www.countysales.com/products/23525).  BHO member Jack Beuthin posted a thread a couple of years ago https://www.banjohangout.org/archive/339085 of recordings of Mr. Wright done by Blanton Owen in 1969.  I won't go into details about the Oscar Wright/Alan Jabbour/Henry Reed/Franklin George connection, or Blanton Owens importance in collecting a lot of this music as there is a LOT of great historical information in the thread-check it out.

The 1969 recordings are a real treasure, as Oscar Wright was unfortunately not recorded as frequently as many other older musicians "discovered" in that era. But what we do have is amazing; he is one of my all time favorite clawhammer banjo favorites up there with guys like Wade Ward & Fred Cockerham.

"Sandy River" is a tune that meanders like a river, you kind of get lost where you're at in the tune and it just keeps chugging along... before you know it, you've been playing it for a while.  There's really not a traditional tune structure as most are familiar with in fiddle tunes.  I like to play it in fCFCD, but Oscar pitched it up a step or two. Here is his version https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZFyid_TQyew. Note how he HAMMERS that downbeat, a common characteristic of the old-timers and old-time music.

Anyway, enjoy and listen to his version... it's a pretty easy tune to pick up, the double slides are the one part that takes a little practice to smooth out, but hope you enjoy this tune from a true master old-timer and give it a try.


Edited by - RG on 05/24/2020 13:56:08

May 22, 2020 - 11:25:52 PM
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8 posts since 3/27/2020

RG, I have loved this tune ever since I first heard it a few years ago and have been wanting to give a go. Really one of my favorites precisely because of the mesmerizing quality to his playing.

Great choice and you nailed it too!

May 23, 2020 - 4:18:17 PM
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6474 posts since 6/27/2009

Always a good challenge from you, RG! I've always liked Oscar Wright's fiddling. This banjo piece was a toughie and my final arrangement here attempts to portray two parts, though the tab doesn't distinguish the two. I skipped the first four measures of Oscar's recording  because they're also the last half of the first part. He repeats the whole piece several times in the recording and I can play along, though slower. I'm impressed that you learned it so fluently and can play it so rapidly. My favorite tune in this tuning is Rambling Hobo.  Anita Kermode calls fCFCD Cumberland Gap F tuning.  


May 24, 2020 - 1:51:46 PM

RG

USA

3030 posts since 8/7/2008

Thanks for the kind words Florian, it is indeed a really fun tune to play.

Janet, as always, love your take on the tune, that was a really nice version! What banjo are you playing?

May 24, 2020 - 2:00:03 PM
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6474 posts since 6/27/2009

That was a Gold Tone cello banjo, a few tones lower. Thanks, RG.

May 25, 2020 - 8:08:19 AM
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832 posts since 3/23/2006

Wonderful tune. Thank you!

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