I first played this tune with Canadian fiddler Glenn Patterson. It was two in the morning and we were at Black Creek Fiddlers Reunion in Altamont New York. I think I’d been playing for a dozen hours in the key of G. I think the tune source was Kentucky fiddler Buddy Thomas. Glenn said he learned it from a recording by Roger Cooper.
Every once in a while in the whirlwind of late night festival jams, a particular jam stands out. For me this one was really memorable and still remains a favorite. Glenn played a bunch of tunes that I didn’t really know but somehow they all seemed to work for me. Over the next two hours we played about twenty-five tunes- I recorded most of them on my phone. Some fiddlers present melodies in a way that just make sense to me. I’ve been working on this one for a while and have quite a ways to go before I can play it smoothly.
Just banjo and fiddle playing together was the original rock band. From the earliest time of the banjo in America – the mid to late 1800’s, the music partner of choice was the fiddle. Here’s a list of some of my favorite duo recordings:
Banging and Sawing by Bob Carlin and Guests
Southern Summits by Alan Jabbour and Ken Perlman
Tommy & Fred by Tommy Jarrell and Fred Cockerham
Starry Crown by Rhys Jones and Christina Wheeler
The Time’s Been Sweet by Jeanne Murphy & Scott Marckx
Phil’s Patio by Aaron Jonah Lewis and Matt Ball
The Fun of Open Discussion by Bob Carlin and John Hartford
These recordings have all affected me on different levels. They’ve inspired me to learn the tunes. They’ve compelled me to seek out fiddlers and sit knee to knee and communicate musically. I’ve shared tunes with my bands and we’ve learned them and added more instruments.
When I think back on wonderful musical moments through the years, many of them have been at festivals where two of us have searched out a quiet corner to sit and play together. Starting with a tune we both know (or not…) and first developing the common ground to kind of establish the musical outlines of the thing that we are creating together then having fun and allowing new ideas to emerge.
The albums above all do this. Most of it is banjo and fiddle but there are some really beautiful fiddle duets on Starry Crown. In the duet form I always love when the whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts.