The song of the week is 'Sweetheart, You Done Me Wrong' in the key of C.
This song was written by Bill Monroe and Lester Flatt, and was recorded in 1947 by the original bluegrass band, Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys, which at that time consisted of: Bill Monroe on mandolin. Lester Flatt on guitar, Earl Scruggs on banjo, Chubby Wise on fiddle, and Howard Watts on bass. On this song, as on most of the songs that Bill Monroe recorded with this lineup, Lester sings lead, and Bill sings the tenor harmony, i.e., the harmony part that is pitched directly above the lead part.
Here is a link to the 1947 recording: key of D
Bill Monroe & His Blue Grass Boys - Sweetheart, You Done Me Wrong
Recorded and released in 1947 (Columbia 20423). Written by Bill Monroe & Lester Flatt. Lead vocals: Lester Flatt ----- Tenor: Bill Monroe.
The chord progression and the melody for this song are both very simple. It is the same chord progression that is used for 'Blue Ridge Cabin Home', which is regularly played at the jam, and for many other standard bluegrass songs.
played through twice for a complete verse, or a complete chorus.
In the key of C: 1=C, 4=F, 5=G.
In the key of D: 1=D, 4=G, 5=A
The melody consists of only 5 notes. In the key of C, these notes are, from lowest to highest, G, A, B, C, and D. In the key of D, these notes are: A, B, C#, D, and E. Many of the melody notes are lingered on for a good length of time, so this song could make a good place to start for learning to pick up melodies by ear, and/or to make a first attempt at singing harmony.
Feel and Tempo
As you listen to the recording, pay close attention to the feel of the song, before making an attempt to play along with it. Because the song has a different feel to it than most of the songs we play at the jam, I strongly recommend playing along with the recording after having listened to it a few times through. It is a slow song (about 84 beats per minute on the recording), and, at the jam, I may choose to play it even slower than the speed it is at on the recording.
Be careful not to push the beat on this song - be mindful of this when practicing along with the record: otherwise it will tend to end up gravitating too much towards the tempo ranges that we play a lot of other songs at the jam, and, at the same time, will lose its distinctive feel. If you are a guitar or a bass player, it may help you to maintain the right feel on this song if you dig in a bit more deliberately than usual into the first bass note you play in each measure while playing rhythm. Breaks (on all instruments) will also tend to work better for this song if one accents a little heavier than usual your first note at the beginning of every odd numbered measure, and additionally, also if one accents a little more than usual the last note of a fill-in lick coinciding with the beginning of an even numbered measure.
On the record, the breaks within the body of the song are only half the length of a verse, and the intro break is even shorter than that. At the jam, however, we will play full-length breaks (i.e., breaks that last the same length of time as one verse, in this case, as in most other songs sung at the jam, this is 16 measures).
Note to Mandolin Players
If you are a mandolin player, and you have found yourself copying the non-melody based break that Bill Monroe plays after the 2nd chorus of the song, and you wish to use it as part of a full length break for the song at the jam, something you might try doing is to play the first half of your break in a melody-based manner, and then, for the second half of your break, play along the lines of how Bill plays it on the record. Transposing from D (the key that the song is played in on the recording) down to the key of C involves lowering the notes a whole step, which is the equivalent of 2 frets.
Note to Banjo Players
While many banjo players will tend to capo to the 5th fret when a song is called in the key of C, I suggest trying to play this song without a capo. If you are a banjo player who has little or no experience playing in C without a capo, this song, because of its slow tempo, simple chord progression and melody, can make for a good place to start to learn to play in C without a capo. After having worked out the song in C, then, if you wish to play along with the recording in D, all you need to do is the same thing that you would ordinarily do for playing in the key of A, namely, capo to the 2nd fret and spike, capo, or tune up your fifth string to an A note.