The song of the week is 'Canaan's Land' (a.k.a. 'Where The Soul Never Dies') in the key of F.
Reasons for the specific song choice for song of the week include:
1) We are getting better at singing harmony at the jam, and Canaan's Land is all about the harmony singing.
2) I sing Canaan's Land most comfortably in the key of F, and Canaan's Land, for at least two different reasons, is more friendly than most songs are for playing in the key of F on bluegrass instruments for which a capo is not normally used, (and even for the instruments for which a capo is more often than not used for playing in the key of F), and,
3) in the recent past, we have begun to see the key of F show up at the jam more often than it used to.
Ability to play satisfactory bluegrass-style backup and breaks in the key of F is an essential intermediate-level bluegrass jam skill. And, for people who like to sing a lot at jams, the ability to find harmony parts to sing is also a crucial skill to continue developing. For the phase that the jam is currently in, these are more important things to make priorities than, for instance, rote memorization of breaks that contain a lot of song-specific moves in them, or working on being able to improvise one's way through songs that have chord progressions that have little in common with the progressions used for any other songs that are likely to be played at the jam any time in the near future.
Here are three versions of Canaan's Land to take a listen to. The third one is not a bluegrass version, but the vocal arrangement is so good that I couldn't help but include it here. It is well worth listening to and learning from, after you have listened closely to at least one of the first two versions.
Ricky Skaggs and Tony Rice (key of E)
Jim and Jesse (key of G)
The Oak Ridge Boys (key of F, final choruses modulate to the key of Bb)
Harmony & Lyrics
I advise getting solid on of the first two versions first, to the point that you can clearly distinguish between the lead part and the tenor harmony part, and then study the third recording for additional harmony parts that might be better suited to your vocal range than the tenor harmony part.
Canaan's Land' is an interesting song to sing harmony on. The set of lyrics used for the harmony part(s) on the chorus, and on the repetitive parts of the verses, is different than the set of lyrics used for singing the lead part (i.e., the melody).
Here is how the two set of lyrics line up with each other for the chorus. Try singing the lyrics for the harmony parts for the chorus along with your favorite of the youtube links:
Lead: No / sad / fare / wells / no /
Harmony: Dear / friends there'll / be no / sad fare / wells, there'll
Lead: tear / dimmed / eyes / where /
Harmony: be no / tear-dimmed / eyes / where /
Lead: all / is / love / and the /
Harmony: all is / peace and / joy and / love, and the /
Lead: soul / never / dies. / /
Harmony: soul of / man never / dies. / /
The repetitive parts of the verses (lines 2 and 4 of each verse) line up in the same way as line 4 of the chorus.
I know 5 verses for Canaan's Land, but at jams I usually only sing 3 of these:
Verse 1 is given on the melody sheets attached here.
The non-repeating parts of my second verse are:
(line 1) The love light beams across the foam
(line 3) It shines to light the shores of home
The non-repeating parts of my third verse are:
(line 1) A rose is blooming there for me
(line 3) And I will spend eternity
Learning the Lyrics
I strongly advise against printing lyrics off the internet as a starting point for learning lyrics to songs. People who habitually do this tend to not do nearly as well with memorizing the lyrics than people who write them out by hand while listening to a record. Printed lyrics on the internet are good to consult in cases in which you find yourself uncertain as to what the words being sung on the records are, but in doing this, be sure to look at several versions of the lyrics, for alternative versions that may not correspond closely with the recordings you are learning the song from, not to mention outright errors, abound on the internet.
Make for yourself a cheat sheet that consists of the bare minimum number of words that you actually need to see in order to jog your memory as to what the lyrics are if you are concerned that you will likely forget some of them in the moment when singing at a jam. The most common spots in songs for people to forget the lyrics to when singing at a jam are the first line of the verses that come after the first verse. If you think you are likely to forget the chorus, or if you think that jogging your memory as to how each verse of the song begins will not be enough to cause you to remember in the moment how the rest of the verse goes while singing it, then you probably have not listened to the song enough, or practiced singing the lyrics enough for it to be true for you to say, in the context of a jam, that you know the song.
The chord progression is the same as for 'Gathering Flowers From The Hillside', 'Fireball Mail', 'Bringing In The Georgia Mail', the original version of 'I'm Goin' Back To Old Kentucky' and the verses of 'Feast Here Tonight':
In the key of F: 1 = F and 5 = C.
The melody uses the major pentatonic scale, and therefore, in the key of F, it contains no notes that are not also part of the C and Bb major scales. F and C are closely related keys, F and Bb are closely related keys. But, C and Bb are not closely related keys. The 5 notes of the F major pentatonic scale are: F, G, A, C, and D. (The 7 notes of the C major scale are: C, D, E, F, G, A, and B. The 7 notes of the Bb major scale are: Bb, C, D, Eb, F, G, and A. Each of these scales share 6 notes in common with the F major scale, but the C and Bb major scales only share 5 notes in common with each other. The 7 notes of the F major scale are: F, G, A, Bb, C, D, and E.)
Guitar: Capo Options
The two most common options used by bluegrass guitar players for playing in F are: 1) Capo 5 and play as if in C. In the key of C: 1 = C and 5 = G; and 2) Capo 3 and play as in D. In the key of D: 1 = D and 5 = A. In the attachments, I have included 2 melody sheets for guitar, one written in C and the other written in D.
Banjo: Capo and Tuning Options
On banjo, there are many ways to play in the key of F, but I think that for 'Canaan's Land', played in Scruggs-style, the 3 best options are:
1) Capo 3 and tune the 5th string up to a C note (i.e., use your 10th fret spike if you have one, or, if not, then use your 9th fret spike and then tune up the extra half-step to a C note manually). and play as if in D. See banjo tab #1 in the attachments.
2) Tune the 2nd string down to an A note, tune the 3rd string down to an F# note, capo the 3rd fret, then tune the 5th string up to an A note (i.e., use your 7th fret spike), and play as if in D. Your 'open' strings will now register on your tuner as the notes belonging to the F chord: AFACF. See banjo tab #2 in the attachments.
3) Play in F without a capo, but tune the 5th string up to an A (i.e., use your 7th fret spike) so that the 5th string is tuned to a note that belongs to the '1' chord.
Of these options, I prefer the 2nd and 3rd. The 2nd option allows one to use more open strings than the other options, and favors the use of slides and pull-offs to the same degree as key of G Scruggs-style playing. The 3rd option allows one to play a break within the first 3 frets of the banjo. When played in F, 'Canaan's Land' contains no chords or melody notes that are not also shared in common with key of C playing. So, if you are accustomed to playing in C, but not F, without a capo, I suggest that 'Canaan's Land' might work well for you as a way of introducing yourself to playing in F without a capo.
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Jason's Intermediate Jam Blog 2017 - 2018
started as Beginner Jam in Jan 2015
Songs regularly called at Bluegrass Jams and links from Jason's "Song of the Week" emails. (from Renee)
in alphabetical order