The next intermediate jam will be held on Wednesday, Jan. 8.
The song of the week will be 'Cryin' Holy (Unto The Lord)', a.k.a. 'On The Rock Where Moses Stood', in the key of G.
I closely associate 'Cryin' Holy' with 'I'll Fly Away' and 'Will The Circle Be Unbroken', but really for no other reasons than that all three use the same chord progression (at least in most versions of the songs): V3 on the Basic Chord Progressions handout), and they are all Gospel-themed songs. However, unlike 'I'll Fly Away' and 'Will The Circle Be Unbroken', 'Cryin' Holy' tends not be all that well-known outside Bluegrass circles. When I feel the need at a jam to call a song that I think everyone will find fairly easy to follow along with, and songs like 'I'll Fly Away' and 'Will The Circle Be Unbroken' come to mind, I will sometimes choose 'Cryin' Holy' instead, because, although it is a less obvious song choice, its progression can be readily explained in terms of the other two songs, parts of its melody are closely related to 'I'll Fly Away' and other songs that use the same or a similar progression, and people tend to catch on quickly to the lyrics for the chorus, so as be able to sing harmony on the choruses. And, I am one of those people who likes to collect jam-friendly songs that are not among those that tend to get played to death at many jams.
Ever since I can remember, I have known the Carter Family version of 'Cryin' Holy':
My grandmother had this version on an LP called 'The Original and Great Carter Family', that I recall listening to quite often when I was a child, and this record is now in my collection.
In Bluegrass circles, the music of the Carter Family is often categorized as 'pre-Bluegrass'. Outside Bluegrass circles, people variously label their music as 'Hillbilly', 'Old-Time', 'Country', 'Folk', and even sometimes as 'Bluegrass'.
Shortly after I discovered Bluegrass, I came across a Bill Monroe live Bluegrass Gospel cassette tape in a friend's tape collection, and borrowed it. This was the first time I had heard Bill Monroe, and Cryin' Holy was one of the first songs on the tape. (Being new to Bluegrass at the time, I was happily surprised at how many of the songs on the tape I already knew from non-bluegrass recordings of the same songs.) I recall liking that it was played much faster than on the old Carter Family record, and with my three favorite instruments taking turns playing breaks on it: fiddle, banjo, and mandolin. I also remember finding it interesting that the lyrics were noticeably different than what I used to from the Carter Family record.
Here is a Bill Monroe live version that is similar to the one that was on the tape:
'Cryin' Holy' starts at 8:50 (key of B)
For comparison, here is a much older and more well-known Bill Monroe recording of the song (key of A) that has a different feel to it than the one given above. The following recording is from the early 40's, which is part of the short time period that I think of as being the transitional phase in Bill Monroe's music from his unique brand of 'Old-Time' music to Bluegrass proper. Although it is anachronistic to say this, one could retrospectively describe this version as Old-Time with strong leanings towards Bluegrass.
(Notice that on this recording the ending line of the progression is, at least on the breaks, 5511 instead of the 1511 that is on the live version and on the Carter Family record, and in the version coming up below.)
Most songs that use Prog. V3 (or the closely related Prog. W3) have melodies for their second line that are similar enough to be interchanged with each other. Thus, one could play line 2 of a melody based break for I'll Fly Away or Will The Circle Be Unbroken (or Mountain Dew, Sitting On Top Of The World, When My Time Comes To Go, Long Gone, Won't You Let Me Be Your Friend, Riding On The Midnight Train, etc.) for line 2 of Cryin' Holy and it would not sound out of place in the song. The melody for the 4th line of Cryin' Holy is identical to the melody for the 4th line of I'll Fly Away.
Notice that the 2 pickup notes built into the melody, descend, rather than ascend, to the first melody note of the first measure proper. (Same scenario as for 'Columbus Stockade Blues' and 'Little Maggie'.) For this reason, it is better to use a descending pickup phrase for leading into one's breaks, rather than the more typical ascending pickup phrases that lead up to the root note of the 1 chord. (Other good options, but that are sometimes instrument specific, can be found on the breaks on the recorded versions provided here.) To make an appropriate 3-note pickup phrase out of the 2 melody pickup notes, all one needs to do is to play a Bb note after the B note and before the A note, thus resulting in the chromatically descending note sequence: B, Bb, A.
The melody for the third line of 'Cryin' Holy' is the only really distinctive part of the melody of the song. Some Bluegrass players like to have fun with this line by syncopating in various different ways the timing of melody, which as usually sung is very straight (consecutive half-notes for its first three measures, in the choruses). For good examples of this, check out the banjo breaks on the version recorded by J.D. Crowe & The New South (key of B):
For contrast, here are Earl Scruggs' breaks on Cryin' Holy - key of A (from 'Songs Of The Famous Carter Family': the Flatt & Scruggs record mentioned earlier in this email), which are similar to J.D.'s breaks, but without the syncopation in the third line:
Jason's Intermediate Jam Blog 2019 - 2020
Weekly on Thursdays
Songs regularly called at the Beginner Bluegrass Jam and links from Jason's "Song of the Week" emails. (from Renee)
in alphabetical order