The song of the week is 'Foggy Mountain Top' in the key of G.
Earl Taylor & Jim McCall - key of G
Doc Watson, Earl Scruggs, & Ricky Skaggs - key of G
The chord progression for Foggy Mountain Top is the same as the chord progression for the previous song of the week 'All The Good Times Are Past And Gone', and is one of the most common progressions in bluegrass:
This is Prog. V6 on the Basic Chord Progressions handout.
In the key of G: 1=G, 4=C, 5=D.
Other bluegrass songs that use this same progression include:
Light At The River
Live And Let Live
I'll Never Shed Another Tear
On And On
That Home Far Away
Little Cabin Home On The Hill - verse prog. only
Before I Met You - verse prog. only
Cabin In Caroline - verse prog. only
Gonna Settle Down - verse prog. only
Little Girl Of Mine In Tennessee - verse prog. only
Little Old Log Cabin In The Lane - verse prog. only
Hallelujah, I'm Ready To Go - verse prog. only
Lovesick And Sorrow - verse prog. only
Greenville Trestle High - verse prog. only
Memories Of You - verse prog. only
Watermelon On The Vine - verse prog. only
Keep On The Sunny Side - chorus prog. only
For people who are much less familiar with bluegrass than with certain other genres of music, some good points of reference for this progression might include:
Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
Why Should We Try Anymore
Jesse James - verse prog. only
Cotton Fields - verse prog. only
My Old Kentucky Home (some versions) - verse prog. only
Note: With the exceptions of 'Hallelujah, I'm Ready To Go' and 'My Old Kentucky Home', all the songs listed here in which only the verses of the song use the V6 progression, the progression for the chorus is Prog. X6 on the Basic Chord Progressions handout:
Progressions V6 and X6 tend to show up together with each other in the same song much more frequently than any other pair of progressions on the basic progressions handout.
For the initial phase that the beginner jam is now in the middle of, with an occasional exception occurring when one of the AABB form tunes is sung (e.g., O Susanna), I have not included any songs on the song lists that use a different progression for their chorus than for their verses, but this will change when the jam enters into its next phase in September.
Compare the progression for Foggy Mountain Top (V6) with the progression for another one of the songs on the main list, 'Bury Me Beneath The Willow':
Notice how similar these two progressions are. They differ from each other only in two of their measures, namely the last measure of line 1 and last measure of line 3.
Part of the practical value of observing how certain commonly recurring progressions are similar and different from each other is that by taking note of this, one can help oneself to avoid certain common mistakes.
In my years of jamming experience, I have noticed that a lot of people tend to be more familiar with prog. V7 than with prog. V6. At large jams, whenever a song that uses prog. V6, I have found that it is typical to find at least one person playing prog. V7 for at least the first round or two through the progression. I count this as being one of the top half dozen or so errors involving wrong chord changes that occur at jams. Yet, the opposite case - namely, someone playing Prog. V6 during a song that uses Prog. V7 - rarely ever occurs at jams.
Another way to put this is that when the first three measures are 114, there is a much greater tendency to assume that the fourth measure will stay on the 4 instead of going back to the 1.
This assumption should be avoided, because songs with the 'Foggy Mountain Top' (V6) progression are very common in bluegrass, even if not quite as common as songs with the 'Bury Me Beneath The Willow' (V7) progression.
[More recently, I have also noticed that the mistake of playing the V7 progression in place of of the V6 progression is less likely to occur when a song is played in 3/4 than when a song is played in 2/2 (cut common) time. This is why I did not draw attention to the commonplace error of substituting V7 in place of V6 in the song of the week write-up for All The Good Times Are Past And Gone.]
On the Doc Watson, Earl Scruggs, and Ricky Skaggs recording of Foggy Mountain Top, notice Doc's choice of pickup notes to lead into the first complete measure of his intro break on guitar: G, B, C, which ascend to a D note. This is the same series of notes that the melody of 'When The Saints Go Marching In' begins with, and is much more effective for starting a break than if one were to use the D half-note as a pickup that is written on the attached Foggy Mountain Top melody sheets.
1 3 4 leading to 5
do mi fa leading to sol
Key of G: G B C D
Key of A: A C# D E
Key of Bb: Bb D Eb F
Key of B: B D# E F#
Key of C: C E F G
Key of D: D F# G A
Key of E: E G# A B
Key of F: F A Bb C
This is a good case in point illustrating how it is often not desirable to slavishly follow the sung melody when playing a melody-based break. An alternative choice of pickup notes to use to ascend into the D note that the first complete measure begins with is: B, C, C#, and this is the choice of notes that you will often hear played on banjo and fiddle on bluegrass records as pickups to lead into a melody line that starts with a D note on a G chord. These are the very first notes played on the banjo on the Earl Taylor and Jim McCall recording of Foggy Mountain Top (a D note is played along with each of the chromatically ascending pickup notes, which is typical on banjo). These are the same pickup notes I recommended for starting breaks for Bury Me Beneath The Willow in the song of the week write up for that song. Refer back to the section on 'Pickups into Breaks' in that write up:
The places in the Foggy Mountain Top progression where it works well to play a fill-in lick in breaks and in backup playing are exactly the same as the places in the Bury Me Beneath The Willow progression where it works well to play a fill-in lick. Refer back to the attachments and the section on 'Fill-in Licks' in the song of the week write up for Bury Me Beneath The Willow:
On the melody sheets for Foggy Mountain Top included in the attachments, notice that during the 5 chord measures in line 2 of the progression, the main melody note that is dwelt on is the second note of the Major Scale.
2nd note of the Major Scale (re)
5 Chord (The fifth of the 5 chord)
Key of G: D A
Key of A: E B
Key of Bb: F C
Key of B: F# C#
Key of C: G D
Key of D: A E
Key of E: B F#
Key of F: C G
This is extremely common in songs that have 1155 as the second line of their progression. Previous songs of the week for the jam in which this happens are Beautiful Brown Eyes (Prog. W7), Bury Me Beneath The Willow (Prog. V7), New River Train (Prog. W2), and All The Good Times Are Past And Gone (Prog. V6). Upcoming songs of the week for the jam in which the same thing happens are: Mama Don't Allow (Prog. V2), and Gathering Flowers From The Hillside (Prog. V1).
Of all the songs listed in the Progressions section of this song of the week write-up, only four dwell on some note other than the 2nd note of the Major Scale during the 5 chord measures in their second line: Amazing Grace, Swing Low Sweet Chariot, the verses of Little Girl Of Mine In Tennessee, and the verses of Greenville Trestle High. There are even fewer exceptions to the rule than this in the list of songs included in the Progressions section in the song of the week write-up for Bury Me Beneath The Willow, with Wreck Of The Old '97 being the most notable exception.
Other songs, not yet accounted for here, on the additional songs list that have 1155 as the second line of their progression and conform to the rule include Canaan's Land (Prog. V1), She'll Be Coming Round The Mountain (Prog. V2), When The Saints Go Marching In (Prog. V2), and Will You Be Loving Another Man (Prog. V2).
16 out of the 17 songs on the current main list and additional songs list that have 1155 as the second line of their progression conform to the rule. Amazing Grace is the one exception.
Lyrics & Arrangement
There are two verses sung for Foggy Mountain Top on the Earl Taylor and Jim McCall recording. There are four verses sung for the song on the Doc Watson, Earl Scruggs, and Ricky Skaggs recording. In the four verse version of the song, the verses in the two verse version occur as verses 1 and 3.
Most times that I have sung Foggy Mountain Top at the jams, I have used only the first 3 verses of the four verse version. But, no matter how few or how many verses I end up singing, I almost always have had the song start as: break, chorus, break, verse 1, chorus, etc., rather than as: break, verse 1, chorus, break, verse 2, etc.
The melody sheets in the attachments show the standard set of lyrics for the chorus.
Since the starting note for the melody of the chorus is the fifth of the 1 chord (a D note when in the key of G), the starting note for the tenor harmony is the root note of the 1 chord (a G note when in the key of G), and the starting note for the baritone harmony is the third of the 1 chord (a B note when in the key of G).
The last note for the tenor harmony is the third of the 1 chord (sung a minor sixth lower than the starting note of the tenor harmony), and the last note for the baritone harmony is the fifth of the 1 chord (sung a major sixth lower than the starting note of the baritone harmony), for, as in the vast majority of songs, the melody ends with the root note of the 1 chord.
The Carter Family
A good number of songs that are now in the standard bluegrass repertoire were recorded by the Carter Family in the 20's, 30's, and early 40's before Bluegrass music, in the generally accepted sense of the term, came into being, and their recordings of these songs directly influenced the first and second generation bluegrass artists who brought these songs into Bluegrass. (Both Flatt & Scruggs and Ralph Stanley, for instance, have recorded entire albums consisting of nothing but Carter Family songs, and there are many, many more of these songs scattered here and there on their other albums.)
The 'pre-Bluegrass' music of the Carter Family bears a similar relation to Bluegrass as what the music of Woody Guthrie has to the 'Pop-Folk' music genre of the 60s. So, for historical reasons, and because I believe that familiarity with the music of the Carter Family is an important part of a well-rounded Bluegrass education, here is a link to the old Carter Family recording of Foggy Mountain Top:
Other Carter Family songs that are on the current main list and additional songs list include:
Bury Me Beneath The Willow (the very first song that the Carters recorded)
Gathering Flowers From The Hillside
My Home's Across The Blue Ridge Mountains
Will The Circle Be Unbroken (there were earlier recorded versions, but they did not have much influence on how this song is played as a Bluegrass song compared to the Carter Family's version)
Cryin' Holy (a.k.a., On The Rock Where Moses Stood)
Gold Watch And Chain
Little Darling Pal Of Mine
Worried Man Blues
14 songs were played at last night's jam: 9 from the main list, 2 from the additional songs list, and 3 that are on neither list:
All The Good Times Are Past And Gone - A
Blue Ridge Cabin Home - A
Boil The Cabbage Down - A
Buffalo Gals - A
Cripple Creek - A
Down The Road (played twice) - A
Foggy Mountain Top - G
New River Train - F
Soldier's Joy - D
She'll Be Coming Round The Mountain - D
Worried Man Blues - A
Ashes Of Love - A
Leaning On The Everlasting Arms - C
Lonesome Feeling - G
Ashes Of Love
The chord progression used for Ashes Of Love was:
1 1 4/1 5
5 5 5 1
1 1 4/1 5
5 5 5 1 1
...except that the last measure of the progression was omitted a few times.
Jason's Beginner Jam Blog 2019 - 2020
Weekly on Thursdays
Songs regularly called at Bluegrass Jams and links from Jason's "Song of the Week" emails. (from Renee)
in alphabetical order