Can't You Hear Me Calling
The song of the week is the old Bill Monroe classic, 'Can't You Hear Me Calling' in G.
Notice that the last line of the progression is a bit unusual:
(In the key of G: 1=G, 4=C, 5=D.)
Note: in some versions of the song, the last line is played as 5511 instead of as 4511, but the 4511 ending fits the melody better than the 5511 ending. I think that the most likely explanation for why some people use a 5511 ending for this song is because doing so results in a very commonly used progression in bluegrass. 1111441144115511 is the progression used for East Virginia Blues, Rambling Letters, some versions of Lonesome Road Blues, the A Part of Rawhide, and many other songs. As a result of using this progression, some people modify the melody of the first measure of the last line in order to make the melody fit better against the 5 chord that they are using in place of the 4 chord in this spot.
This song has an unusually high range for a bluegrass song in the key of G. At the beginning of the 2nd and 3rd lines, on the change to the 4 chord, the melody jumps up to a high G note (like the beginning of the 3rd line of Fireball Mail), whereas most bluegrass songs that are commonly sung in the key of G have a D note or an E note as the highest note in the melody. (See the melody sheet attached to this email.) If I were to sing this song, it would be a bit of a stretch for me to sing it in G. I would likely want to lower it to the key of E. But, I think that the song sounds better in G than in E, so since Matt sings it in G, and does a really good job of singing it there, and it was Matt who introduced this song into the beginner jam, I have asked him to sing it as the song of the week.
Because of its unusually high range for a song that is commonly played in the key of G (or A) in bluegrass circles, 'Can't You Hear Me Calling' is a song that may appeal (and has appealed) to some female bluegrass singers who would usually need to sing in the keys of C or D the songs that the male singers would ordinarily sing in G and A, because it allows them to comfortably sing in one of the two keys (G or A) that tend to be the favourite keys of many bluegrass jammers, and yet do not suit the range of many male vocalists for this particular song.
Notice that the melody (in the key of G) contains some Bb notes, and in the 3rd and 4th lines these occur in the descending melodic sequence: D,C,Bb,G. The use of the Bb note in this context gives a bluesy character to the melody; and you may find that the sequence of notes: D, C, Bb, G (in numbers representing scale degrees: 5, 4, b3, 1) has a familiar sound from your having heard and played 'Clinch Mountain Backstep' at the jam (for the key of A, where Clinch Mountain is usually played, the corresponding sequence of notes is: E, D, C, A).
The melody of 'Can't You Hear Me Calling' contains all the notes of the G major scale except for the F# note, which note, if added into the melody would have detracted from the bluesy character of the melody, and it contains all the notes of the G blues scale except for the F natural note, which note, if added into the melody would have made the song sound even more bluesy. The notes of the G major scale are: G, A, B, C, D, E, and F#. In numbers representing scale degrees, these notes are labelled as 1 through 7. The notes of the G blues scale are: G, Bb, C, Db, D, and F. In numbers, these are called: 1, b3, 4, b5, 5, and b7. (In the sheet music attached here, the Db note is written as a C# because of the context it occurs in. When 1=G, the number name for C# is 4#.) This way of combining the major scale and the blues scale is common in bluegrass songs that have a bluesy, or, one might say, slightly 'minor' - sound or feel to them.
The first youtube link here is the first recorded version I ever heard of 'Can't You Hear Me Calling', and it is still one of my favourite recorded versions of the song even after years of hearing many other versions of the song. The second link is from a live performance by Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys, with special guest Ralph Stanley (singing lead on the song), at Bill Monroe's famous 'Bean Blossom' bluegrass festival in Indiana.
Boone Creek: key of G
Bill Monroe and Ralph Stanley: key of G