Since it may be awhile until we can all get together again at the Pioneer Building to play together, and also to try to offer something in the meantime to all of you who have been very mindful and supportive of me and my family during this time, I got the idea to record a few songs each week from the beginner and intermediate jam lists and put them up on youtube with me leading them much like I would at the jams, for those of you who might like to play and jam along at home.
When calling the breaks, instead of calling out 'everybody', 'banjo', 'fiddle', etc., I have substituted 'together' and 'your turn'.
This is my first attempt at 'leading' a jam while playing alone, so I sometimes found it hard to remember in the moment to call out the next break or to signal the end of the song, so I apologize about many of the cues coming later than what they ordinarily would at the jam. I hope my future attempts at this will be better than this first one.
Also, I may have started some of these songs off a bit on the fast side of things, so if need be, you may find it desirable to slow some of the songs down to 75% of the recorded speed. You can do this on youtube on a laptop, but not on a phone, by going to settings, and the clicking on 'playback speed'.
All The Good Times Are Past And Gone - A
Angeline The Baker - D
Blue Ridge Cabin Home - A
I hope that this email finds you well, and I hope that you will enjoy playing some of the songs here along with me.
Also, for all you banjo players out there, Bill Evans (who was going to be one of the instructors at Weiser Banjo Camp this year until it was cancelled - but he'll be there for the 2021 camp) is teaching a free Facebook Live online workshop this coming Saturday (tomorrow) at noon Mountain Time on “Working Up Scruggs-Style Solos.” This page is set to “Public,” so anyone with a Facebook account can view. Here’s the Facebook link: www.facebook.com/BillEvansBanjo
Keep safe and well.
The song of the week is 'Blue Ridge Cabin Home' in the key of A.
Flatt and Scruggs - key of Bb. This is the original recording of 'Blue Ridge Cabin Home'. It is in the key of Bb instead of A only because all the instruments were tuned a half-step higher than standard.
Here is a link to the same recording, but which the person who posted it on youtube has taken it upon himself to slow it down a bit so that it is lowered to the key of A. You may wish to try playing along with this:
For a more recent recording of Blue Ridge Cabin Home, here is one of my favorites:
The Bluegrass Album Band - key of Bb
In many Bluegrass circles, the Bluegrass Album Band (Tony Rice - guitar, vocals; J.D. Crowe - banjo, vocals; Doyle Lawson - mandolin, vocals; Bobby Hicks - fiddle; Todd Phillips - bass) version of Blue Ridge Cabin Home, released in 1981, has replaced the 1950s Flatt & Scruggs version as the primary point of reference for the song.
The Bluegrass Album Band
Listening over and over again to the set of records recorded by Tony Rice, J.D. Crowe, Doyle Lawson, etc., under the name 'The Bluegrass Album Band' was a big help to me when I was first learning to play bluegrass in the early '90's.
Here are my other favorites, besides Blue Ridge Cabin Home, on the first of the Bluegrass Album Band records:
Molly & Tenbrooks
We Can't Be Darlings Anymore
On My Way Back To The Old Home
Gonna Settle Down
..and my favorites from the second record:
Your Love Is Like A Flower
Take Me In The Lifeboat
Back To The Cross
Just When I Needed You
Is It Too Late Now
I'll Never Shed Another Tear
More Bluegrass Listening
Other Bluegrass artists and bands besides Flatt & Scruggs and the Bluegrass Album Band that I especially recommend listening to in high doses for those who are new to Bluegrass include Bill Monroe, The Stanley Brothers, and Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder. But, beyond these, there are many other great bluegrass artists and bands that are well-worthwhile checking out. The following is only a very short list of such artists:
Jim & Jesse
J.D. Crowe & The New South
Reno & Smiley
The Osborne Brothers
Alison Krauss & Union Station
The Lynn Morris Band
The Seldom Scene
The chord progression for Blue Ridge Cabin Home is:
(Progression W8 on the Basic Chord Progressions chart. In the key of A: 1=A, 4=D, 5=E. In the key of Bb: 1=Bb, 4=Eb, 5=F. In the key of G: 1=G, 4=C, 5=D.)
Notice that both halves of the progression are identical with each other, and that the 4 chord is always followed by the 5 chord without the 1 chord intervening between them.
Other very jam friendly bluegrass and 'pre-bluegrass' songs that use the same chord progression, any of which would be welcome additions to the beginner jam repertoire for the second half of the evening if someone wishes to introduce one or more of them into the jam, include:
A Few More Seasons. (This is a slow song that has a similar melody to Blue Ridge Cabin Home, and is on the current additional songs list.)
I'm Thinking Tonight Of My Blue Eyes
Is It Too Late Now (A recording of this song is included in the 'Bluegrass Album Band' section of this song of the week email.)
The Prisoner's Song.
Sweetheart You Done Me Wrong. (A slow song from Bill Monroe and Lester Flatt, that will be on the new main list for the jam in September.)
We Can't Be Darlings Anymore (A recording of this song is included in the 'Bluegrass Album Band' section of this song of the week email.)
We'll Meet Again Sweetheart
Other songs that use the 'Blue Ridge Cabin Home' chord progression for one or more of their parts, but not for all of their parts, include:
Are You Tired Of Me My Darling (verses, but not the chorus)
Daybreak In Dixie (the A-Part, but not the B-Part)
Durham's Reel (the A-Part, but not the B-Part)
I Wonder Where You Are Tonight (verses, but not the chorus)
I'd Rather Be Alone (verses, but not the chorus)
I'm Using My Bible For A Roadmap (verses, but not the chorus)
Mastertone March (the B-Part, but not the A-Part)
My Little Home In Tennessee (verses, but not the choruses)
Orange Blossom Special (The first of the two parts that come after the key change from E to A.)
Over The Hill To The Poorhouse (verses, but not the chorus)
Randy Lynn Rag (the A-Part, but not the B-Part)
Sunny Tennessee (first and second verses, but not the third verse or the chorus)
Thinking About You (verses, but not the chorus)
For those of you who are still far less familiar with bluegrass than with certain other genres of music, then, depending on your musical background, good points of reference for Prog. V8 may include one or more of the following songs:
Golden Slippers (the B-Part, but not the A-Part: however, in some versions, the last line of the B-Part is 5551 rather than 5511)
Life In The Finland Woods (A-Part, but not the B-Part or the C-Part)
The Great Speckled Bird
It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels
Mocking Bird Hill (verses, but not the chorus)
Reuben James (chorus, but not the verses)
They'll Never Never Take Her Love From Me (verses, but not the choruses)
The Wild Side Of Life
Your Cheating Heart (verses, but not the chorus)
At jams, I have noticed that many people, when singing harmony, (and occasionally even a person leading the singing on the song) fail to notice that the last line of the chorus uses the word 'mountain' rather than 'cabin'. This may be because the title of the song is 'Blue Ridge Cabin Home', rather than 'Blue Ridge Mountain Home'. But I have also heard people at jams call the title of the song incorrectly also, and perhaps this is due to the last line of the chorus having the words 'Blue Ridge mountain home' in it, and because nowhere in the song do the four words 'Blue Ridge cabin home' occur back to back, although the word cabin does occur in one of the verses (the beginning of the third verse).
For the longest time, I experienced great difficulty remembering how either the second verse or the third started when leading the singing on the song at jams, and it would often happen that I would sing the first half of the third verse and the second half of the second verse as my second verse, and then not be able to remember the remainder of the lyrics, so as to put a third verse together. In observing, and in speaking to others about this, it would seem to me that this is a common problem that people experience with this song.
[Another song that I have become aware of that tends to present the same kind of difficulties for some people is Mac Wiseman's 'I'll Still Write Your Name In The Sand'. There is a live version of this song that I found on youtube awhile ago, in which Mac himself quite visibly experiences this very difficulty, and consequently ends up with a two verse version of his song, rather than the three verse version that is on his studio recordings of the song.]
Therefore, when I first introduced Blue Ridge Cabin Home into the beginner jams within the first year after moving to Boise, I created a cheat sheet for myself, that had written on it the beginning of both the first and the third lines of the second and third verses of Blue Ridge Cabin Home, and I had this taped to my guitar for several months before I removed it because I felt I no longer needed to glance at it near the end of the break before starting to sing the next verse.
An alternative to taping a small print cheat sheet on your instrument (which works well only on guitar and bass), is to create a large print cheat sheet that you can place on the floor in front of you.
In ascending order of pitch, the notes that make up the melody of Blue Ridge Cabin Home are:
sol la ti do re mi sol
5 6 7 1 2 3 5
Key of G: D E F# G A B D
Key of A: E F# G# A B C# E
Key of Bb: F G A Bb C D F
Key of B: F# G# A# B C# D# F#
Key of C: G A B C D E G
Key of D: A B C# D E F# A
Key of E: B C# D# E F# G# B
Key of F: C D E F G A C
Notice that the 4th note of the Major Scale (fa; a C note when in the key of G, a D note when in the key of A, an Eb note when in the key of Bb, etc.) is absent from the melody.
On the first 4 chord measure in lines 1 and 3 (i.e., measure 3 of lines 1 and 3), the 2nd note of the scale (a B note when in the key of A; an A note when in the key of G, etc.) is dwelt on, even though this note does not belong to the 4 chord.
(In the key of A, the 4 chord is a D which consists of the notes D, F#, A; in the key of G, the 4 chord is a C which consists of the notes C, E, G). The melody note, when added to the chord, creates a 6th chord. The melody note is the root note of the relative minor chord of the 4 chord. The relative minor chord of the 4 chord is the 2m chord. (Bm in the key of A; Am in the key of G.) This note (the 6th, relative to the root note of the chord; B relative to D on a D chord, A relative to C on a C chord, etc.) is the fourth most common note for a melody to dwell on. Of all the notes that are other than the 3 notes that make up a major chord, adding the 6 creates the least degree of dissonance with the notes, considered collectively, of the major chord.
Also notice the prominence of the 7th note of the major scale (ti) in the melody during the 5 chord measures. This is the 3rd of the 5 chord (the G# note in the E chord when in the key of A, the F# note in the D chord when in the key of G, etc.). Compare this with the melody of Little Birdie during the first two of its 5 chord measures, and with the melody of Bury Me Beneath The Willow in its last 5 chord measure (2nd measure of line 4). Contrast this with the melody in the 5 chord measures of any of the rest of the songs on the main list for the beginner jam; these all avoid this note on the 5 chord measures. The melody sheets and song of the week write-ups for the 18 previous songs of the week for the jam are available at https://www.idahobluegrassassociation.org/jasons-beginner-jam-blog-2019---2020. Will The Circle Be Unbroken is the one remaining song on the main list that is yet to be made a song of the week for the jam.
The first melody note of the first full measure of the chorus (just like for the verses) is the 3rd of the 1 chord (C# note when in the key of A, B note when in the key of G, etc.) "Oh I love..." Therefore, the corresponding note that is dwelt on here in the tenor harmony part is the 5th of the chord (E note when in the key of A, D note when in the key of G, etc.), and the corresponding note that is dwelt on here in the baritone harmony part is the root note of the chord (A note when it in the key of A, G note when in the key of G, etc.).
Observe, in listening to the recordings, that the melody for the chorus (especially in the first and third lines) is different than the melody for the verses, and that the phrasing of the lyrics is different in the chorus than in the verses. The attached melody sheets give the melody for the first verse, for when the melody of the chorus differs from the melody of the verses of a song, melody-based breaks on the instruments usually take their cues from the verse melody, rather than the chorus melody. So, in this case, the melody sheets attached here should not be used as a reference point for finding the harmony parts for the chorus.
Starting the Song
On the classic recordings of Blue Ridge Cabin Home, the song begins with a banjo intro break that is based squarely upon the melody for the verses of the song, and that is how the song is usually started at bluegrass jams. The pickup measure played on the banjo on the recordings before the first measure proper of the song consists of a half-note pinch (double-stop or triple-stop lasting for half a measure) on the open 1st (3rd) and 5th strings, followed by two quarter-note pickup notes: open 4th string, then open 3rd string, which leads into the 2-4 or 2-3 slide on the 3rd string that the first measure proper of the break starts with. This is the way that I like to start the song, but at jams, if I feel uncertain that enough people are familiar with how the song starts on the recordings, I will often play a more generic set of pickup notes, so that the song has a better chance of getting off to a strong start with everyone coming in at the right time, like the pickup phrases I recommended using to lead into breaks for the previous songs of the week 'My Home's Across The Blue Ridge Mountains', 'Beautiful Brown Eyes', 'I'll Fly Away', and 'All The Good Times Are Past And Gone'.
The 2 spots in the verses, choruses, and breaks where a fill-in lick will fit (both of these spots are during '1' chord measures) are identical with the spots in which fill-in licks will fit into the previous songs of the week on the '1' chord: 'Nine Pound Hammer', 'Little Birdie', 'I'll Fly Away', and 'Way Down Town'. That is, at the ends of lines 2 and 4, starting in measure 3 of those lines.
13 songs were played at the jam on Thursday: 10 from the main list, 0 from the additional songs list, and 3 that are on neither list:
Blue Ridge Cabin Home - A
Boil The Cabbage Down - A
Bury Me Beneath The Willow - G
Cripple Creek - A
Down The Road - A
Foggy Mountain Top - G
Gathering Flowers From The Hillside (played twice) - G
Soldier's Joy - D
Way Down Town - E
Will The Circle Be Unbroken - G
Lonesome Feeling - G
Greenville Trestle - D
Don't This Road Look Rough And Rocky - A
Doc Watson: Greenville Trestle - key of F
The chord progression used for Greenville Trestle is the same as the chord progression for 'Before I Met You', 'Cabin In Caroline', 'Cotton Fields', 'Cyclone Of Rye Cove', 'Gonna Settle Down', 'I'm Going To Make Heaven My Home', 'Jesse James' 'Little Cabin Home On The Hill', 'Little Girl Of Mine In Tennessee', 'Little Old Log Cabin In The Lane', 'Lovesick And Sorrow', 'Memories Of You', 'My Oklahoma Home', and 'Watermelon On The Vine'. The verses (and typically the breaks also) of all these songs use Prog. V6 (the 'Foggy Mountain Top'/'Amazing Grace'/'All The Good Times Are Past And Gone' progression) on the basic chord progressions chart, while the choruses use the closely related Prog. X6 which starts with 4411 instead of with 1141, that being the only difference between V6 and X6.
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