Week #344 I Whish I Was a Mole in the Ground

  1. Marcelyn
    Happy Thanksgiving! I hope the holiday season is off to a joyful start for all of y'all.
    This week's winner is an American folksong called "I Wish I Was a Mole in the Ground."
    Here's a link to tab and sheet music...
    Here's one of my favorite versions from Doc Watson...
    Here's the first recorded version of this tune from Bascom Lamar Lunsford back in 1928...

    About that early recording, Greil Marcus writes in his novel Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the 20th Century.
    "Now what the singer wants is obvious, and almost impossible to comprehend. He wants to be delivered from his life and to be changed into a creature insignificant and despised. He wants to see nothing and to be seen by no-one. He wants to destroy the world and to survive it. That’s all he wants. The performance is quiet, steady, and the quiet lets you in … You can imagine what it would be like to want what the singer wants. It is an almost impossible negation, at the edge of pure nihilism, a demand to prove that the world is nothing, a demand to be next to nothing and yet it is comforting."

    Here's a version with a slightly more modern feel and great mandolin from Joe Walsh...

    Mr. Walsh talks about those new verses in Richard Thompson's article from Bluegrass Today
    "Of the songs I’ve pitched in on I’m pretty proud of Mole in the Ground – I took the chorus that everyone’s familiar with “I wish I was a mole in the ground…” and wrote a handful of new verses, in the hopes of having a set of words that spoke to my experience in the world, and that I could feel honest singing. Obviously there are a lot of universal themes in bluegrass and old country music, but with some songs it seems that changing a verse or two, or even as little as a word, can make a song speak to the patchwork quilt experience that being a “traditional” musician in a modern world can feel like.
    I guess what I’m trying to say is that we’re not all hunting groundhog for dinner anymore, and that I feel the music can evolve to reflect that."

    I'm still not exactly sure what the lyrics mean myself, but obviously it's a song that has something to say. Hope y'all have fun with it!
  2. jonny250
    i was fortunate enough to have Joe Walsh as my tutor at 'Sore Fingers' [UK] a couple of years ago. he is an amazing musician and teacher, and i loved hearing his version of this song when he played it at the tutor concert at the end of the week
  3. Sasquatch
    Happy Black Friday to all of my SAW family. I'm home today. Slept in but have a kidney issue so I am trying to keep the mind occupied from the discomfort. So I quickly printed the words to this old song and recorded a version this morning. First cut and didn't listen to all of it so this is raw stuff. LOL
  4. Michael Pastucha
    Michael Pastucha
    A couple of my favorite "old time" versions of Mole in the Ground. The first is Jerron "Blind Boy" Paxton.

    This is from Elizabeth LaPrelle's album Lizard in the Spring.

    I just heard the version from Sasquatch. One of my new favorites...
  5. David Hansen
    David Hansen
    Really nice Tim, I wish I could sing as well as you or play the mandolin as well as you for that matter. I chose the Joe Walsh version because it's in the key of C and low and behold because I just bought a mandola this week. Key of C and mandola go so well together. My Milli Vanilli lip synching didn't work too well but I was too tired to record it live.

  6. Michael Pastucha
    Michael Pastucha
    Really great old time singing voice and what a fine sounding mandolin. Love it, David.

    I know this tune well, but I might be a bit late recording it because I've lost my voice due to a really bad cold... so I'll wait until I don't sound like a croaking frog to finish up my version.
  7. Marcelyn
    Tim and David,y'all really sound amazing on this tune! Those are two outstanding versions.
    I love the mellow sound of your new mandola David!
  8. woodenfingers
    Wonderful playing Squatch. Wish I had those licks. Also, as David said, great voice and singing.
    David - very nice mandola. A Weber? Sounds great and you certainly have the fretboard figured out already. Your usual tightly arranged orchestration for a swell tune.

    I did mine jam session style - all my alter egos played at once, no finesse arrangement - mando, fiddle, guitar, and vocals. Pix from library of congress Lomax collection.

  9. Michael Pastucha
    Michael Pastucha
    That's the real deal right there... just super woodenfingers!
  10. Marcelyn
    I'll second that. Really authentic sound to that version Bob. Great playing!
  11. Gelsenbury
    One of the great things about this group is the discovery of melodies you'd never otherwise come across. And how could you not like it if it's played on mandolin and so nicely?
  12. jonny250
    really good to hear the different versions of this song - and so well played!
    David your mandola sounds great - whats the scale length?

    here is my effort:
  13. Marcelyn
    You really get your mandolin to ring out, Jonny! And your chop chords sound fantastic too. That version is great!
  14. David Hansen
    David Hansen
    Nicely done Jonny, the mandola is a Weber Bitterroot with a 17" scale.
  15. Sasquatch
    All the versions truly reflect the diversity of this group. I love it. Take an old tune and throw it out and amazing things happen. Cool stuff everybody!!
  16. woodenfingers
    Michael, Marcy, thanks for your kind comments.

    Jonny, very cool version. I really like the chord progression you used and you transition the chords very fluidly too.
  17. Michael Pastucha
    Michael Pastucha
    Well done everyone! Here's my offering this time as an instrumental using a claw hammer style 5 string banjo, mandolin and guitar backup. (I still havn't recovered fully from my cold – the voice is back but not for singing as yet!)

  18. Marcelyn
    Your mandolin and banjo sound great together, Michael. It'll be fun to hear you sing it too sometime when your voice comes back.
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