The song of the week is 'Leaning On The Everlasting Arms' in the key of A.
The Grascals - key of G
Solid Blue - key of B
I suggest first listening to, and playing and singing along with, the slower and simpler arrangement by the Grascals to get the basics of the song down pat, before moving onto Solid Blue's faster and more complex version. But, be sure to listen to Solid Blue's version, since their arrangement of the song comes much closer to how it has been played and sung at the jam.
The chord progression that is used on the Grascals' version of Leaning On The Everlasting Arms is:
(In the key of A: 1=A, 4=D, 5=E; In the key of G: 1=G, 4=C, 5=D; In the key of B: 1=B, 4=E, 5=F#.)
The progression is a bit unusual when compared with the progressions for most of the other 1-4-5 type songs that are regularly played at the jam. The 5 chords all occur a measure later than what one would ordinarily expect to be the case.
For this reason, both lines 2 and 4 are often played as 5 measure lines in bluegrass versions of the song. This is how it is played on Solid Blue's version of the song, so as to allow for 2 measures of the 5 chord in line 2 (11155) and 2 measures of the 1 chord at the end of line 4 (11511), since this allows for fillin licks to be played by the instruments since a pause is thereby created in the vocal before the next line starts.
The pauses in the vocal that result from adding the extra measures also allow the singers a moment to catch their breath in preparation for the next line. The faster the song is played and sung, the more desirable it becomes to put in these extra measures.
The way that I like to play the song is to keep line 2 as a 4- measure line, while extending line 4 to being a 5-measure line. The resulting progression is:
This is how we played the song last night, and is how we'll play it when I lead it this coming Wednesday. So, when two or more breaks occur back to back, keep in mind that we are using a 17 measure form for the song instead of a 16 measure form; otherwise, the beginning of your break (especially if you play pickup notes into your break) will overlap with the fillin licks that others may be playing at the very end of their break (or at the end of the chorus that occurs before your break).
Notice that in Solid Blue's version, harmony is sung not only on the choruses, but also on the repetitive parts of the verses: i.e., lines 2 and 4 ('leaning on the everlasting arms').
Also ,notice that in the same version, on lines 1 and 3 of the chorus, the lyrics for the harmony parts are not the same as the lyrics for the lead part. While the lead singer sings: 'Leaning, leaning', the harmony singers sing: 'Leaning on Jesus, leaning on Jesus'. Rhythmically, the way this lines up is as follows:
Lean - / ing / lean - / ing
Lean - ing on / Je - sus / lean - ing on / Je - sus
This is the way I like to hear the song sung when I lead it, and everyone at last night's jam who participated in singing harmony on the song at the end of the night did a great job on this, so I am especially looking forward to leading the song next week as the song of the week.
In case you have difficulty catching this from the recordings, the lyrics for line 2 of the chorus are: 'safe and secure from all alarms'.
Leaning On The Everlasting Arms has a particularly strong melody line. For songs like this, one should be careful about when and how one deviates from the melody when playing a break for the song. You might notice in the breaks on the recordings that deviations from melody-based playing are less frequent than what has often the case in breaks on the recordings for other previous beginner jam songs of the week.
For beginner level players, I advise them to base their breaks squarely upon the melody. (For help with finding the melody on your instrument, see the attached melody sheets.) This does not mean playing nothing but the melody: by all means one should put the usual frills around the melody notes that are typical in Bluegrass breaks to the extent that one knows how to use them: stuff like (depending on which instrument you are playing): double stops, slides, shuffle rhythms, fillin licks, rolls, hammer-ons, and pull-offs.
Notice on the recordings, that in the few spots where the players deviate from melody-based playing in their breaks in favor of lick-based playing, they do not linger on any one note for any length of time. Rather, in those spots, they play a rapid flurry of notes. The second half of the guitar break on the Solid Blue recording, for instance, consists mostly of eighth notes. The same is true of the last line (last quarter) of the fiddle break on the Grascals recording. In a song with a strong melody, dwelling on a non-melody note will sometimes work in a break, but more often it will sound out of place in the song.