The first time I heard this tune, Snowbird, I was sitting in the all-purpose room of an elementary school in Gainsborough, England, and the guy playing it was a fiddle/banjo player from Vermont. I had recorded it then, back in 2004 with just me and him playing it, and have loved the tune ever since. But I’ve never found anyone else who knows it, so I’ve kept it to myself, just played it maybe a few times on my own, but never in a session… until yesterday. Fred, Ouida, and I paid a visit to Lucy Long’s cabin at the Breakin’ Up Winter festival in Lebanon, TN. We brought instruments and the birthday bourbon, sat down and had us a few great tunes. Luke of Lawrenceburg was also there pulling out all kinds of tricks on the guitar, banjo, and harmonica. I was so delighted when Lucy started playing Snowbird!
I recorded it on my iPod, experimenting for the first time with the new Belkin recording attachment I just got for it. I wasn’t using an external mic, although I think it would sound better if I had. Still, not a bad job for just a little guy.
What do I like so much about this tune? It’s rather plain… not crooked, not in the key of A, no surprise key changes in the second part… I don’t really get what gets me about it, but I’m got. It’s a sweet tune.
Another record we listened to at my Victrola party was Arkansas Traveler (as a fox trot)! It’s been one of my favorite old time tunes ever since I heard Rayna Gellert’s rendition. Most people think of Looney Toons or “Picking up my baby bumble bee” when they hear this tune, but I think it can be pretty edgy if you do it right, or just pretty.
So here’s the version recorded from the Victrola machine:
Rayna Gellert’s version:
And my version on solo dulcimer, just quickly recorded in my living room for the heck of it:
This is a video of Samantha Oberkfell (known for her hammered dulcimer prowess, and quite the fiddler as well!) and three of the four famous Wrights of Kenard, Texas. The missing Wright is Lloyd Wright, who’s in my mountain dulcimer top 10. We stayed up late at the Super 8 playing all kinds of choice tunes. This one’s being led by Samantha, and it’s called “Roscoe”.
In October, 2006, Butch and I had yet another chance (lucky us!) to spend a little time in England. One night, our dear friends Christine and Pete drove us out into the middle of nowhere for a good ol’ American old time music session. The venue was a pub called the Cock and Pullet, which gave us the giggles for far too long. The place really should’ve been called the “Clock and Pullet” since every inch of the walls was covered in clocks, which once again left us giggling uncontrollably every hour when they’d all start chiming. Anyway, it was a super fun night, and none of us wanted to leave, but as it is with so many of our wonderful nights out, we were having to catch a plane early the next morning. Some of these folks (including the very kind Steve Wise) I’d met a few years prior, at that festival in Gainsborough, the one where I captured that unofficial history of Scotland posted earlier.
Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss, American old time music as played by Brits and Yanks together at the Cock and Pullet pub, England, 2006.