The song of the week is the old Carter Family classic 'Little Darlin' Pal Of Mine'. This song - like many Carter Family songs - has been recorded many times over the years by Bluegrass artists.
The Stanley Brothers:
Ralph Stanley II:
The Carter Family:
For those of you who may never have heard this song before, but find that the melody sounds familiar, I will point out that the melody for Woody Guthrie's 'This Land Is Your Land' appears to have been based upon Little Darlin Pal Of Mine. Indeed, many of Woody Guthrie's songs have melodies that are derived from songs originally recorded by the Carter Family.
Unfortunately, this tends to cause a bit of confusion at bluegrass jams when someone calls a Carter Family song that is similar - yet not identical - in its melody and chord progression to a Woody Guthrie song that people who are more familiar with the Guthrie song (either from a Woody Guthrie record itself, or more often, from covers of Guthrie's songs by folk artists from the 50s and 60s - e.g., The Kingston Trio, Pete Seeger)
Little Darlin Pal Of Mine is no exception here. For, unlike This Land Is Your Land, the last 4 measures of the chord progression are 1511. (This Land Is Your Land is: 5511)
The chord progression for Little Darlin Pal Of Mine is:
I sing it in the key of G: so in real chords it is:
Because Flatt and Scruggs recorded this song as an instrumental on the Foggy Mountain Banjo album (see attachment), this song is thought of by many bluegrass players as a banjo tune. And, I have met some banjo players who play this song that didn't know it had lyrics.
Strictly speaking, the music of the Carter Family is not bluegrass, but rather 'Old Time'. From a bluegrass perspective, one would call it 'pre-bluegrass'. Many of the basic elements of bluegrass music are there in their music: the boom-chuck rhythm guitar style; heavy emphasis on the downbeat in the vocals; 2 and 3 part harmony on the choruses - albeit the harmonies are more primitive/less refined than what one tends to associate with bluegrass harmony - frequent instrumental breaks based upon the melody (though, no banjo, fiddle, or mandolin, and none of the 'licks' that one associates with bluegrass lead and back-up playing).
Besides all these things, it is the types of melodies, chord progressions, and perhaps, most significantly, the subject matter of the songs (home and family; sacred songs; murder songs; unrequited love; heart-wrenching songs about the death of loved ones - mothers, fathers, children) that has made the large recorded repertoire of the Carter Family so adaptable to bluegrass, that of all 'pre-bluegrass' artists, there is no band that has been covered more frequently than the Carter Family by first generation bluegrass artists. Furthermore, many of the songs in question have become so closely associated with bluegrass as to be thought of as being just simply 'bluegrass songs', despite their pre-bluegrass origin. For bluegrass artists have had much more of a tendency to perpetuate the recorded repertoire of the Carter Family than what 'country' and 'folk', or even modern 'old time' artists have tended to do. Besides, Little Darlin Pal Of Mine, other examples of 'bluegrass songs' originally recorded by the Carter Family include:
Bury Me Beneath The Willow (the very first song the Carters recorded - 1927),
Foggy Mountain Top,
Cryin' Holy (a.k.a., On The Rock Where Moses Stood),
Workin' On A Building,
The Storms Are On The Ocean,
Keep On The Sunnyside,
Homestead On The Farm,
Gold Watch And Chain,
East Virginia Blues,
Will The Circle Be Unbroken (in the version of the lyrics and melody that is used by bluegrassers),
My Clinch Mountain Home,
Are You Tired Of Me My Darlin',
I Can't Feel At Home In This World Anymore,
No Hidin' Place,
Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone, and
Bring Back To Me My Wandering Boy.
Hope to see you all on Wednesday,