The song of the week is the old bluegrass classic 'Long Journey Home' (a.k.a. 'Two Dollar Bill' or 'Lost All My Money') in the key of A.
Flatt & Scruggs - key of A (song starts at 2:07)
Rhonda Vincent - key of B
Bill Monroe & Doc Watson - key of G
For reasons of historical interest, I include the following version of 'Long Journey Home' by the Monroe Brothers (Bill Monroe and his older brother Charlie). From 1936, this was one of the first songs that Bill Monroe recorded, and it is played wickedly fast:
The chord progression is:
While this is a fairly basic chord progression, there are relatively few bluegrass standards that use this progression. I like to think of this progression as being closely related to the more common progression:
(Will The Circle Be Unbroken; I'll Fly Away; Ridin' On The Midnight Train; Mountain Dew, etc.)
The first, third, and fourth lines are identical in both progressions. The second line of both progressions is made up of 1 and 4 chords, but they differ from each other as to where the 4 chord occurs within the line and how long one stays on the 4 chord before changing back to the 1.
The main challenge that the Long Journey Home progression presents is that with so many 1s in the in the progression, it can sometimes be all too easy to lose one's place within the progression. But, if one thinks/feels the song in terms of distinct lines consisting of 4 measures each, then this is less likely to happen. However, if you do lose track of the progression, then the safest chord to play is the 1. Just keep on playing the 1 while you are trying to figure out where in the progression the song is at. Use the vocal as a guide to help you to feel where each line of the progression begins.
When I lead the song at the beginner jam for the next two jams, we will play it in the key of A. However, it is also a good idea to be prepared for the future to play it in G and in Bb, since these are the keys that others have chosen to sing it in at the jam in past.
(In the key of A: 1=A; 4=D; 5=E. In the key of G: 1=G; 4=C; 5=D. In the key of Bb: 1=Bb; 4=Eb; 5=F.)
Long Journey Home is quite often played at a fast tempo. While this song would not work very well at a slow tempo, it is not necessary to play it nearly as fast as it has often been played on recordings in order for it to sound right. So, at the beginner jam, I do not intend on playing the song as fast as it is played on the youtube links provided below, but it will still be one of the faster songs, relative to the speeds that we tend to play songs at at the jam.
One of the things that makes 'Long Journey Home' a jam friendly song is the repetitive nature of the lyrics. So there is not much that needs to be memorized in order to be able to sing harmony on the choruses, and the last line of the chorus is identical to the last line of each verse:
Lost all my money but a two dollar bill,
Two dollar bill, boys, two dollar bill.
Lost all my money but a two dollar bill:
I'm on my long journey home.
The repetitive nature of the lyrics also makes Long Journey Home a good song choice for those who wish to lead a song at the jam, but do not have much experience yet singing at a jam, or who have difficulty memorizing lyrics.
weekly on Wednesdays
Songs regularly called at the Beginner Bluegrass Jam and links from Jason's "Song of the Week" emails. (from Renee)
in alphabetical order