Week #233 Matty Groves

  1. Marcelyn
    By overwhelming majority, y'all have voted in a doosey this week. Adultry, dueling, decapitation--it's got it all.
    Little Mattie Groves, Little Mathie Groves, Little Musgrave, Matthy Groves, Young Musgrave, Wee Messgrove, Little Sir Grove, or however you've come to know it, is one of Child's ballads--an English folk song dating back to at least the early 1600s. It became popular in Appalachia as well.
    There are as many variations on the tune as there are on the lyrics, but here's mandolin tab and sheet music to one version.

    Search You Tube under the various titles and find the version that grabs you. Hopefully we'll get both old time and old world renditions. Have fun with it. Here are a few well-known recordings to get the ball rolling.

    Here's a favorite of mine by Ralph Stanley. Ten points to anyone who can name the mandolin picker.

    Here's Doc Watson singing Matty Groves

    Here's Matty Groves from Fairport Convention, 1969.

    Here's the song as an unaccompanied ballad by Jean Ritchie.
  2. mikeyes
    Mike Compton
  3. Marcelyn
    He's the one. Ten points for you.
  4. Marcelyn
    If it's a murder ballad, count me in. Here's a version from me.

  5. JLewis
    Elizabeth's was my favorite for some time, but now I've heard Marcelyn's I've got two.

  6. gortnamona
    thats was great Marcy, love hearing your natural accent coming through in your singing.
  7. James Rankine
    James Rankine
    Marcelyn, really fantastic singing. I too love to hear the accent when someone sings, and to a Brit's ears you have a great accent.
    I've gone with the music Marcelyn posted a link too. I suspect Shady Grove must be another variation of this. I know that's been a song of the week previously but it's all I've got to work with- and I'm not singing!
    Played on my Tom Buchanan tenor mandola, tuned CGDG - so a bit like a GDAD tuned Bouzouki.

  8. Martin Jonas
    Martin Jonas
    The relationship between Matty Groves and Shady Grove goes back to the 1969 Fairport Convention version posted by Marcelyn. Before then, they were two well-known but separate songs, but Fairport married the words of Matty Groves to the tune of Shady Grove as some sort of musical pun on the similarity of the two names. Since then, that combination of words and tune has been perpetuated fairly widely even by those who don't know the Fairport recording, thereby creating the impression that Matty Groves and Shady Grove are variants of the same song, e.g. in the Wikipedia entry for Matty Groves.

  9. Rick E Vengeance
    Rick E Vengeance
    Recorded yesterday at a 'Victoria Makes Music' get-together held in my town just north of Melbourne. I've known the song since it first came out but never had a chance to play it with so many good musos

    I'm playing my Peter Daffy L 00 guitar, Peter used to be Steve Gilchrists apprentice before going out on his own, they're still thick as thieves, living close to each other. Peter has a Gilchrist A5 one-off prototype with a Pine top, I played it a couple of months ago. Nice.
    Next to me Jane is playing a flat top & back A5 quite new so still developing a voice. Next to her, Terry is playing a Martin A4 copy, this has that bent top behind the bridge, don't know whether it was built to be left-handed but it's loud & brash. Didn't get the makers of these mandos, sorry. On Terry's right, Bruce is quietly noodling on Janes' Eastman F5 & then James is forgoing his (my ex) Glichrist F4 & giving my brand new Collings MT a serious workout. I didn't realize it was that loud.
  10. Michael Pastucha
    Michael Pastucha
    Extremely well done Rick and friends. Also very nicely sung by Marcelyn and her mandolin is pretty good too! Thanks goes to James.

    And a great big thank you to Martin for explaining the relationship between Matty Groves and Shady Grove. Fairport Convention's version always sounded like "Shady Grove" to my American ears and I always wondered about it... it just goes to show how the folk process works even in these modern times!
  11. Bertram Henze
    Bertram Henze
    Very good version all, but my vote goes to Marcy for authenticity.

    When I played in a band some 25 years ago, we did the Fairport Convention version of this as well. I had painted 4 b/w scenes of the story on both sides resp. of two giant cardboard sheets, and our percussion player held them up for the audience so they could follow the lengthy proceedings. That's one thing I remember from the song.

    The other thing is that I was the singer, and one evening I mixed up the words of the 10th verse:

    "Oh I won't get up, and I won't get up
    And sleep with you tonight"
    ...frantically looking for a rhyme at this point to continue the story...
    "For you have two long beaten swords
    And I not a weapon to fight"

    The band members looked at me increduously on-stage and later unanimously said "Oh well, Matty Groves is gay..."
  12. Marcelyn
    That's a really lively version, James. As an instrumental, I clearly hear Shady grove in the Fairport Convention tune now. Funny how the lyrics hid that before. Really nice picking.
    Rick, what a fun group you have there. You all sound great.
    Bertram, it could be centuries of slip ups from singers like you that brought us so many options for this week's tune. Why else would most versions have Matty meeting her at a church and then a few while he's playing ball? I bet the band members were giving another singer that same "what are you going to do now?" look a few hundred years ago when he took off "Oh holy day, Oh holy day, the best one of them all..."
  13. Bertram Henze
    Bertram Henze
    Good point Marcy, history is inadvertent. Why not a soccer version.
    And to back my turn of the story: I had always wondered how Matty could "not have a pocket knife" before the Swiss army even invented it.
  14. Martin Jonas
    Martin Jonas
    Speaking of text variations, there is always the parody "Big Musgrave" (or "Fatty Groves") by the Kipper Family. At one of the annual Fairport festivals at Cropredy, which always close with Matty Groves followed by Meet On The Ledge, one of the Kipper Family couplets migrated into the Fairport version:

    Saying "How do you like my feather bed, and how do you
    like my sheet
    And how do you like my curtains that I got in the sale
    last week?"

  15. Bertram Henze
    Bertram Henze
    That's hilarious, Martin (not that inadvertent, though).

    There's more parody on this:

    The Fairport Convention version was not the first one I have heard, btw. My first encounter with that story was from a Planxty record; Christy Moore is reperforming this version here:

  16. Martin Jonas
    Martin Jonas
    Fabulous versions here: Marcelyn's Appalachian balladry transports me straight back to the days when Cecil Sharp was roaming the mountains collecting murder ballads, Rick and his mates riffing on the Fairport version with lots of great mandolin fills while staying at all times sympathetic to the vocal lead and James showing how to adapt the Fairport tune to a solo mandola chord melody with lots of bright ideas of varying it without ever dropping a beat -- wonderful stuff all!

    Mine isn't anything as inventive as any of those: simply the Fairport melodic riff repeated eight times (4x on the Ajr, 2x on the Mid-Mo OM, 2x on both in unison) over a tenor guitar rhythm, followed by the final Fairport instrumental riff (in alternating 4/4, 6/4 and 6/8 time!) played in unison on all three instruments.

    The sheer repetitiveness of the tune is of course what creates the hypnotic effect of the ballad when sung, but when played as an instrumental, something else is still missing. What I should do is add improvised fills on a second mandolin (as Swarbrick's fiddle does on the Fairport recording), and I might try that later this week, if I find the time. I'm not very good at improvising fills, but Rick's friends show how to do it.

    In the meantime, here is an audio-only MP3 of my recording of the Fairport riffs (melody and rhythm):

    [Edit: updated recording in my next message two posts down]

  17. maudlin mandolin
    maudlin mandolin

    Four excellent but very different versions so far. I have taken Frank Hayes advice and restricted the number of verses.
    Martin - what was the tune for Matty groves before Fairport Convention - was it that sung by Doc Watson or Joan Baez?
  18. Martin Jonas
    Martin Jonas
    I've just revisited my recording and have added a second mandolin part to the mix, played on my Washburn M-3SW (an F5 clone). The second mandolin adds some treble, reinforces the driving rhythm and perks the take up quite a bit -- I'm much happier with this now.

    I've added some nice pictures for the Youtube upload:

    Maudlin: nice playing and singing -- almost got me to record my own vocals, but I chickened out. To answer your question: like most Child ballads, Matty Groves (or "Little Musgrave") was sung to several different tunes. A traditional recording, sung in 1960 by the great Jeannie Robertson, can be found at the Tobar an Dualchais website (an archive of Scottish field recordings): Link

    It's interesting to compare this to the Fairport version: the words are very similar (surprisingly so, considering how many variants exist -- I suspect Fairport knew the Jeannie Robertson version), but the tune is different.

  19. Marcelyn
    That second mandolin sounds really nice in the mix, Martin. The arrangement has a Medieval feel to it.
    Good work, Maudlin. That's a melody I haven't heard yet.
  20. Sasquatch
    Marcelyn, I was playing your version of this tune today at work. I had quite a group at my desk enjoying your old-time rendering.
    I may have rushed this one a bit, but I am trying to play a little catch up! My take is an instrumental.

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