The song of the week is 'I'll Fly Away' in the key of G.
Other keys besides G that the song has been played in at the jam within the past few months are Bb and C.
Of all the versions of I'll Fly Away that I have been able to locate on youtube, the following Del McCoury live performance is the one that comes the closest to how the song is usually played and sung at the jam when I lead the song, in terms of interpretation of the melody and the overall arrangement of the song. This is about as straightforward as it gets for a good solid Bluegrass arrangement of 'I'll Fly Away':
Del McCoury - key of Bb
The chord progression for I'll Fly Away is:
(In the key of G: 1 = G, 4 = C, 5 = D. In the key of Bb: 1 = Bb, 4 = Eb, 5 = F. In the key of C: 1 = C, 4 = F, 5 = G.)
This is Progression V3 on the 'Basic Chord Progressions' handout, and is the same progression that is used for 'Will The Circle Be Unbroken', 'Mountain Dew', 'Cryin' Holy', 'Ridin' The Midnight Train', the chorus of 'It's Mighty Dark To Travel', some versions of 'Sitting On Top Of The World', and many other bluegrass jam standards.
While the chord progression is the same for both the verse and the chorus of I'll Fly Away, the melody of the chorus differs from the melody of the verse. The spots that differ are the whole first line and the first two measures of the 3rd line. (in some versions, however, the melody for the 3rd line of the chorus is the same as the melody for the 3rd line of the verse: e.g., the Gillian Welch/Alison Krauss version on the O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack).
In the attachments, I have provided the melody for the verse as a guide for creating melody-based breaks for each of the instruments; but since the progression is the same for both the verse and the chorus, if you know the chorus melody and would like to play a break that is based upon the chorus melody instead of the verse melody, feel free to do so, just not at the beginning of the song for the intro break. This can make the song a bit more interesting, especially when two breaks are played back to back, or after several breaks have already been played in the song that have been based upon the verse melody, and it will work in the context of the collective breaks that we play at the beginner jam, since the chorus melody does not conflict with the verse melody.
I welcome harmony singers to sing not only on the choruses, but also on the second and fourth lines of the verses (the 'I'll Fly Aways'): refer to the youtube link given earlier to hear how this works. Please remember though that when singing harmony, it is important to be focused on the lead singer as much as possible for the sake of timing, tuning, and phrasing.
In the attachments, I have included a simple three part harmony arrangement for the choruses (the notes for the 'I'll Fly Aways' in the verses are identical with the notes for the 'I'll Fly Aways' in the choruses, so I have not included a harmony arrangement for those parts of the verses in the attachments.) There are much more interesting note choices that one could use for the harmony parts than what I have written here, but I thought that, for the sake of those who are just beginning to learn to sing harmony, I should keep the parts as simple and straightforward as possible.
On the harmony sheet attached here, the notes for the tenor harmony are the highest of the groups of three notes on the staff, the notes for the baritone harmony are the lowest, and the melody is the middle set of notes. If it suits your vocal range better, you may drop the tenor harmony part an octave to create the harmony part that is known in bluegrass as the 'low tenor' (this is what I would need to do to sing this part, if the song were to be sung in a key a third or more higher than G), or you may raise the baritone harmony an octave higher to create the harmony part that is known in bluegrass as the 'high baritone'. (Most women will need to do this in order to sing this part, unless the melody is being sung in an unusually high range for bluegrass.)
At the end of last night's teaching segment on 3-note pickup phrases used to start breaks (especially for intro breaks), I said that I would collect together in one place all the information I have provided on pickup phrases since the beginning of this year in song of the week emails for the beginner jam. For, within the past year's worth of song of the week emails for the beginner jam, all the most commonly recurring scenarios have been covered, and most of what I could say about pickup phrases for I'll Fly Away and other upcoming songs of the week would be little more than a repeat of things I have already said in connection with other past songs of the week.
To see the collection go to X- Pick-Up Notes .
Jason's Beginner Jam Blog 2017 - 2018
Songs regularly called at the Beginner Bluegrass Jam and links from Jason's "Song of the Week" emails. (from Renee)
in alphabetical order