Sleeve Notes for Old Virginia by Rattle on the Stovepipe
Rattle on the Stovepipe sing and play American traditional ‘Old Timey’ music with a classic lineup of guitar, banjo and fiddle.
‘For a rattling good time, let Pete, Dave and Dan rattle on YOUR stovepipe! Great songs and tunes, mostly fiddle-led, but with fine work on banjos, guitars and (sometimes) melodeon, as well’ - Tom PaleyIn these days of too clever-clever Americana, its immensely refreshing to hear real old time music played with such verve and melodic nous, by musicians at the very top of their game. Many of the ballads and tunes collected in the US had, of course, their genesis in these isles and the repertory here is best described as Anglo-American. Sentiment in spades. this hits every spot available!..........Clive Pownceby
Dave Arthur: guitar, banjo, melodeon, drum, vocals
Pete Cooper: fiddle, viola, mandolin, vocals
Dan Stewart: banjo, guitar, vocals
1 CHINQUAPIN HUNTING
Uncle Norm Edmonds (1889-1976) of the Hillsville/ Galax area of Virginia was the recorded source of this revival favourite. Pete learned it at the Mount Airy, North Carolina fiddle convention in 1997. A chinquapin is a type of chestnut tree with a sweet edible nut, common in south-eastern parts of the USA. Pete fiddle AEAE, Dan banjo aEAC#E, Dave guitar.
2 SANDY BOYS
A version of the popular Old Time song and tune put together by Dave from various traditional sources. The first two verses were taken from ‘Lizzie Brown’ a bawdy song found in Vance Randolph’s collection Roll Me in Your Arms –“Unprintable” Ozark Folksongs and Folklore’. Vol 1. These were the only two verses that could reasonably be sung in ‘polite society’. The ‘bugaboo’ in the chorus is a British Isles dialect word for a ghost/hobgoblin, most commonly known through versions of the courting song ‘The Foggy Dew’ (a mis-hearing, or rationalising, of ‘bugaboo’), the earliest known version of which, ‘The Bogle Bo’, is found in the early 19th century manuscript papers of the Newcastle bookseller/antiquarian, John Bell. Shakespeare also used the term in King Henry IV, Part II : ‘Keep close thy bogle-boe.’ The ‘Bogle Bo’ crossed the Atlantic and pops up in some versions of ‘Sandy Boys’, and as an Afro-American dialect word for ghost. The ‘Sandy boys’ worked on or around the Big Sandy River, the boundary, for its twenty-nine mile length, between West Virginia and Kentucky. Dave guitar DADGAD/vocal, Pete fiddle/chorus vocal, Dan banjo cFCFG /chorus bass vocal.
3 BONNIE PRINCE CHARLIE
A tune with a tangled background. Learnt by Dan from a CD in banjo-maker Barry Murphy’s collection. ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’ has been recorded three times in recent years that we know of, including this recording, and all three performers acknowledge banjo-player Bill Mansfield as their source. Mansfield and the Carolina Mockingbirds recorded it on their album Root Hog or Die (Flying Cloud FC005, 1987). In his album notes Mansfield said: ‘In 1975, at the end of an all-night music party, (Tennessee fiddler) Mike Cross played this tune on the fiddle. Peter Hartman, the banjo player for the Bell City Entertainers, learned it and taught it to me. The arrangement is my idea but Peter is the first person I ever heard use this D minor tuning. Banjo: a DADF’. Mark Cross told us that he ‘first heard it about 40 years ago from a friend who spent his childhood in Upstate New York, USA. He learned it as a traditional tune from a fellow he knew when he was a teenager. That would have been about 50 years ago.’ The A part of the tune is almost identical to the beginning of ‘The Pat-a-Cake Polka’ so perhaps there’s a dancing patissier who could throw some light on the tune! Dan banjo a DADF, Dave guitar/drum, Pete fiddle.
4 OLD VIRGINIA
A song widely collected and recorded in the southern Appalachians (Roud 3396), this version was from Dan Tate of Fancy Gap, Carroll County, Virginia, in his early eighties when recorded by Mike Yates in 1979 (Far on the Mountains, Musical Traditions MTCD321-2). The striking fourth verse (‘Fetch me a razor and a pan of cold water…’) also turned up in Mississippi, reported Mike, as part of the song ‘Wild Bill Jones’. Pete fiddle DDAD/vocal, Dan banjo aDGAD.
5 ELK RIVER BLUES
Descended from four generations of fiddlers, West Virginia fiddler Ernie Carpenter (1909-1997) composed this when evicted from his Elk River homeland by the Army Corps of Engineers. His 1986 LP Elk River Blues was re-released in 2001 by Augusta Heritage Center (Old Time Fiddle Tunes from the Elk River Country, AHR 023). We play it a little more slowly than on his recording. Pete fiddle, Dave banjo, Dan guitar.
6 RATTLE ON THE STOVEPIPE
Dave learnt the chorus of this Canadian woodsman’s song as a tongue-twisting children’s rhyme from American singer/banjo player Sara Grey, over morning coffee several years ago. He later found the complete song in Edith Fowke’s Folk Songs of Canada Vol 2 collected from the prolific southern Ontario singer LaRena Clark (1904-91). Dave recorded an arrangement of it in 2003 on the CD Return Journey (Wildgoose Records WGS313CD) with Pete and guitarist Chris Moreton, which resulted in the formation of the first incarnation of Rattle On the Stovepipe. Dave guitar DADGAD/vocal, Pete fiddle/chorus vocal, Dan banjo aDGAD.
7 BILL DALTON’S WIFE
‘Bill Dalton’s Wife’ was originally a three-verse poem from the pen of Appalachian ‘people’s poet’, Don West, father of ballad singer Hedy West. Son of a Georgia farmer, West came from a long line of radical mountain folk who influenced his lifelong stance against social exploitation, religious bigotry and racism. An authentic regional literary voice, West was also a preacher, union organiser and the founder of the Appalachian Folk Life Center in West Virginia.. His outspoken defence of, and admiration for, the Appalachian working-classes caused the FBI to dub him ‘The most dangerous man in the South.’
It was only on recently re-reading the poem that Dave realised how much the song and tune he put together from West’s three moving verses had grown and taken on a life of its own.
Dave guitar DADGAD/vocal, Dan guitar/banjo b(flat) F B(flat)DF /chorus bass vocal, Pete fiddle/viola/chorus vocal.
8 SANTA ANNA’S RETREAT
One of our favourite tunes, learnt by Dan from our old banjo-player/maker friend Barry Murphy, from East Sussex. The original source of this, and so many other fine tunes, was the Virginia fiddler (and finger-picking banjo player) Henry Reed (1884-1968), who fortunately was recorded by Alan Jabbour in the 1960s. Several of Reed’s tunes, disseminated by Jabbour’s Hollow Rock String Band (The Hollow Rock String Band, Traditional Dance Tunes, 1968) have become staples of the Old Time repertory. Reed claimed to have learnt ‘Santa Anna’s Retreat’ from his musical mentor, Quince Dillon, who had been a fifer in the American army during the Mexican-American War (1846-7). According to Dillon it was a tune used by the Mexicans during their retreat before the victorious Americans. Jabbour, however, suggests that as versions of the tune appeared in several early British, Irish and American tune collections it was more likely to have been played by the Americans. There was, though, a significant contingent of Irish Catholics who fought heroically for Mexico as the St Patrick’s Brigade, perhaps they played it? Except that, unlike many of the Mexican troops, the St.Patrick’s Brigade were not into retreating. Many of them were deserters from the American army and they knew that if they surrendered or were caught they would be executed for desertion. This sobering thought caused them to fight fiercely to the bitter end of any engagement. Anyway, whichever side played the tune they had an ear for a good melody.
9 DUNCAN AND BRADY
Officer James Brady was fatally shot on 6 October 1890 when police entered Charles Starkes’s Saloon in downtown St Louis, Missouri, to break up a fight. Tried for murder, bartender Harry Duncan protested his innocence but, despite an appeal to the US Supreme Court, was hanged in 1894. There were rumours of a deathbed confession by Charles Starkes himself. The song was first recorded by Wilmer Watts and his Lonely Eagles in 1929. Pete fiddle/vocal. Dan banjo aEAC#E, Dave guitar/chorus vocal.
10 COLEMAN’S MARCH
Joe Coleman was a shoemaker and fiddle player from Slate Fork, KY, wrongly convicted in 1899 of his wife’s murder and sentenced to death. “While being driven to the place of execution in a two-wheeled ox cart, Coleman sat on his coffin and played a tune that has come down as ‘Coleman’s March’.“- Andrew Kuntz, ‘Last Request: Music and Legends of Condemned Fiddlers’, Fiddler magazine. Pete learned this from Bruce Greene and Pete Sutherland. Pete fiddle DDAD, Dave banjo dADF#A, Dan guitar.
11 YOUNG AND VENTURESOME
The song, written by Dave, was inspired by reading accounts of Englishmen who travelled to America and participated, sometimes with tragic results, in famous historical events such as the Battle of the Little Big Horn, the Battle of the Alamo, the Battle of Cerro Gordo (where General Santa Anna lost his cork leg! His real leg having been lost in Veracruz a few years earlier, fighting the French), and the War Between the States – the Civil War. Certain young Englishmen were attracted to the swashbuckling, Cavalier-like, image of the Confederate cavalry – some of the finest light-cavalry in the world. Particularly appealing were the irregular, guerrilla, mounted units such as Mosby’s Rangers and Quantrell’s Raiders. Historical details in the song are correct and provide a suggested ‘back-story’ of the Old Time version of the song ‘Angeline the Baker’ with its chorus line: ‘I should have married Angeline 20 years ago.’ The original ‘Angelina Baker’, written by Stephen Foster in 1850, told the story of a slave whose love was taken away, presumably sold at auction: Angelina Baker! Angelina Baker’s gone, She left me here to weep a tear And beat on the old jaw-bone. Dave guitar DADGAD/vocal, Pete fiddle, Dan banjo gDGBD.
12 SHOVE THE PIG’S FOOT A LITTLE FURTHER IN THE FIRE
From Marcus Martin (1881-1974) of Swannanoa, NC, recorded by Peter Hoover in the 1950s/ ’60s. (Marcus Martin, Field Recorders’ Collective, FRC502). A ‘Pig’s Foot’ is a type of iron poker. No animals were barbecued in the creation of this piece. Pete fiddle, Dan guitar, Dave melodeon
13 NEW RIVER TRAIN
On Route 94, Scenic Road, Fries, Grayson County, VA is an official roadside history marker which states that: ‘The original ‘New River Train’ song was claimed by the Ward Family of Galax as part of their repertoire as early as 1895. The song was believed to refer to the train that ran on the New River Line in 1883 as part of the Norfolk and Western system serving the town of Fries until 1985. It was first recorded in December 1923 by Henry Whitter. It has since been recorded by a number of artists including local residents Kelly Harrell in 1925 and E.V. ‘Pop’ Stoneman in 1928.’ Dan banjo aDADE /bass vocal, Pete fiddle /vocal, Dave guitar/vocal
14 THE GYPSY GIRL
A song once popular on both sides of the Atlantic. Dave can’t remember from whom he learnt the words, not from Charlie Poole and the North Carolina Ramblers, even though the lyrics are almost identical. Nor from the Carter Family who also recorded a very similar set of words. The provenance of the tune, however, he does remember. Like many young folk guitarists two of his first finger-picking tunes were Davy Graham’s ‘Anji’, and Sam McGee’s ‘Buckdancer’s Choice’ learnt from a private recording of Tom Paley. A couple of years ago he started playing the tune at half-speed, with more swing and less finger-busting rush. Not wishing to waste this new-found, more laid-back ‘Buckdancer’s Choice’, he started singing ‘The Gypsy Girl’ to the tune and found it fitted like a glove. Surprisingly, this light-hearted tale of the young Gypsy girl who makes her own luck was one of the band’s ‘hit numbers’ on our tour of Japan. Japanese audiences completely got the humour implicit in the tale. Dave guitar/vocal, Pete fiddle/mandolin/chorus vocal, Dan banjo b(flat) F B(flat)DF.