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:
In the attachments are two versions of the new song list for the intermediate jam: a large print list that gives the names of the songs without the progression used to play them, and a smaller print version that includes the chord progressions for the songs.
The song of the week is 'Homestead On The Farm' (a.k.a. 'I Wonder How The Old Folks Are At Home') in the key of A.
Bluegrass History and Recordings
Homestead On The Farm was recorded by the Carter Family in 1929, but in bluegrass circles, this song tends to be more closely associated with Mac Wiseman, who first recorded the song more than 20 years after the Carters. On the points where Mac Wiseman's arrangement differs from the Carter Family's arrangement of the song (chord progression, melody, etc.), bluegrass players have tended to follow Mac.
Mac Wiseman played guitar and sang harmony on Flatt and Scruggs' Mercury Sessions recording of 'We'll Meet Again Sweetheart', which was one of the very first records Flatt and Scruggs made together after they left Bill Monroe's band. And, in the role of lead singer and rhythm guitarist, Mac Wiseman was Lester Flatt's immediate successor in Bill Monroe's band. Mac, for instance, is the lead singer on the original 1949 Bill Monroe recording of the popular bluegrass standard 'Can't You Hear Me Calling'.
Here are two of Mac's recordings, and one live performance, of Homestead On The Farm:
key of Bb:
key of A:
key of A:
Progression, Form, and Arrangement
The chord progression I use for Homestead On The Farm is the same as the one that Mac Wiseman usually used:
(In the key of A: 2 = B. The '2' chord is a whole-step higher than the 1 chord, so in the key of Bb: 2 = C; in the key of G: 2 = A, etc.)
Notice that the verse ends on the 5 chord, instead of the 1 chord. This requires the verse progression to be followed by the chorus progression in order for the song to sound resolved. Since the verse ends with one being left hanging on the 5, the chorus may easily come across as though it were simply the second half of a really long verse. For this reason, the parts of the song (breaks, verses, choruses) are usually arranged in such a way that the verse progression is never played twice back to back without the chorus progression intervening.
A typical jam arrangement of the song is:
Intro break - played over the chorus progression, (so that the intro break sounds resolved)
Break - played over the verse progression
Break - played over the chorus progression (by a different instrument than the one that played the immediately preceding break)
Break - played over the verse progression
If more breaks are needed than this, another break over the verse progression followed by another break over the chorus progression may be inserted right before Verse 2, and/or another break over the chorus progression followed by another break over the verse progression may be inserted right before the final chorus.
2 Chord Review
The root note of the 2 chord is one whole step higher than the root note of the 1 chord, and is named using the letter of the musical alphabet that immediately follows the letter that is used to name the 1 chord. Therefore:
In the key of A, 2 = B
In the key of Bb, 2 = C
In the key of B, 2 = C#
In the key of C, 2 = D
In the key of Db, 2 = Eb
In the key of D, 2 = E
In the key of Eb, 2 = F
In the key of E, 2 = F#
In the key of F, 2 = G
In the key of Gb, 2 = Ab
In the key of G, 2 = A
In the key of Ab, 2 = Bb
In chord progressions, the 2 chord is almost always followed by the 5 chord.
More on the '2' Chord
Just as one may substitute a dominant 7th chord (usually called just simply a 7th chord) in place of a major chord when a 5 chord is called for (e.g., D7 in place of D when playing in the key of G; G7 in place of G when playing in the key of C), so the same is also true for '2' chords (e.g., B7 in place of B when playing in the key of A; D7 in place of D when playing in the key of C; E7 in place of E when playing in the key of D).
Notice on the Mac Wiseman live performance included here, Mac is playing a B7 instead of a B: and this is common practice for bluegrass rhythm guitar when a B chord shows up when playing in any key without a capo in which the B chord functions as the 5 chord (key of E), the 6 chord (key of D), the 3 chord (key of G), or, in this case, as the 2 chord (key of A).
However, B7 in place of B would not work well if the B chord were functioning as the 1 chord (key of B), except when used as a transitional chord to lead from the 1 to the 4 (in the key of B, one might for instance play the first half of the I'll Fly Away progression as: BBBB7EEBB), and would not always work well for the 4 chord either (key of F#), and would almost never work for the b7 chord (key of C#). Most bluegrass rhythm guitar players need not concern themselves with this since most of them would never consider playing in any of these keys without a capo, and the two latter keys are not among the 8 Major keys that bluegrass songs are commonly played in at jams. But, it is good for all to be aware - regardless of which instruments they play - that there are only certain chords for which it is safe to habitually substitute dominant 7ths in place of majors.
When playing in the key of G in standard G tuning, banjo players may often automatically play a dominant 7th in place of a major for the 2 chord (in the key of G, an A7 chord in place of an A chord) without being consciously aware that they are doing so, for the 5th string - the short string - on the banjo is tuned - when in G tuning and when not capoed - to a G note (banjo players rarely ever fret this string), and this is the very note that when added to an A chord makes it into an A7 chord. (This same A7 chord will also often show up in place of an A for the 6 chord when banjo players are playing in C without a capo.)
To make any major chord a dominant 7th chord, all that one does is add to the chord the note that is a whole step lower than the note that has the same letter name as the chord: this is the b7 note/scale degree on the Nashville Number System Chart handout.
I think it sounds best if only some of the players at any given time, rather than all at the same time, in a band, or at a jam, use the dominant 7th in place of the major when playing over 2, 3, and 6 chords. On 5 chords, I like to hear the dominant 7th used even more sparingly.
21 songs were played at last night's jam:
Ashes Of Love - G
Cherokee Shuffle - A
I Saw The Light - Bb
Little Liza Jane - D
Auld Lang Syne (played twice) - G
Away In A Manger - G
Good King Wenceslas - A
Jingle Bells - G
Blue Ridge Cabin Home - Bb
Boil The Cabbage Down - A
Cripple Creek - A
Foggy Mountain Top - G
Mountain Dew - A
Dark As A Dungeon - C
Fireball Mail - G
Foggy Mountain Breakdown - G (Yesterday was the 70th anniversary of the original recording of the tune: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z_Y3mnj-8lA
Lonesome Feeling - G
Red Wing - G
Steam Powered Aereo Plane - G
30 Inch Coal - C
Westphalia Waltz - G
The song of the week is 'Auld Lang Syne' in the key of G. We will play this mostly as an instrumental, but perhaps sing a verse and chorus near the end of it.
The chord progression I use for Auld Lang Syne is:
Each break will run through the progression twice (32 measures in total) so that each instrument gets to play a break based upon the melody for both the verse and the chorus.
Bill Keith: key of G
David Grisman: key of G:
These arrangements of Auld Lang Syne (once you get past the intro in the first version) make for good examples of what can be done with any number of non-bluegrass songs in 4/4 time to convert them to a bluegrass rhythm and feel. I suggest listening to these back to back with any non-bluegrass versions of the song that you might have in your music collection or that you might bring up on youtube and study closely how they differ in rhythm and feel from the bluegrass versions. In this connection, you might find it interesting to compare the melody sheets attached here for Auld Lang Syne with the melody sheets you will find on the internet if you google "Auld Lang Syne sheet music".
During the month of December I welcome you to call Christmas songs at the jam that you would like to play that you believe would be a good fit for the intermediate jam group. And you need not wait until the second half of the evening to call these.
If you have tried adapting Christmas carols to bluegrass, then you may have noticed that some carols adapt more easily and naturally than others. Like 'Away In A Manger', most of the ones in 3/4 time are good candidates for attempts to play them with a bluegrass feel; but of these, the ones that tend to adapt best have fewer melody notes (on average) per measure and fewer quick chord changes relative to the ones that don't adapt quite as easily. For example, Silent Night and It Came Upon The Midnight Clear are more bluegrass-friendly than The First Noel and We Wish You A Merry Christmas.
The carols that are either in cut time (2/2) or in 2/4 (e.g., Jingle Bells, Good King Wenceslas) are natural candidates for being given a bluegrass treatment; while, on the other hand, most of the 4/4 carols (e.g., O Come All Ye Faithful, O Little Town Of Bethlehem) need to be converted to a cut time feel in order to be played as bluegrass songs; but this can be challenging to do if one is not yet very familiar with how this kind of conversion works. Being able to do this conversion is useful not only for creating bluegrass arrangements of Christmas carols, but also for many other songs from various different genres.
22 songs were played at last night's jam:
Ashes Of Love - G
Clinch Mountain Backstep - A
Gold Watch And Chain - D
Homestead On The Farm - D
I Saw The Light - A
Little Liza Jane - D
Little Willie - C
Love Of The Mountains - A
Love, Please Come Home - A
Reuben - D
Steel Rails - G
We'll Meet Again Sweetheart - G
Where We'll Never Grow Old - F
Red Wing - G
Way Down Town - Bb
30 Inch Coal - C
Big Spike Hammer - B
Mountain Dew - A
Foggy Mountain Top - G
Auld Lang Syne - G
Shepherds In The Field - A
Beautiful Star Of Bethlehem - C
Jason's Intermediate Jam Blog 2019 - 2021
Was 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