Week #446 ~ The Boatman

  1. Barbara Shultz
    Barbara Shultz
    Good morning! I'm posting the winner early this week, since it's a runaway, so I don't get busy and forget!

    This week's winner is The Boatman, which was submitted as an Old Time tune in the key of A.

    I see that when I posted the poll, and put up a video, it was of John Duffey's version of a tune called The Boatman. Now that I'm searching more for this tune, I can't seem to find notation for this version! I've found something called the Boatman in 6/8 time, tunes called The Lonesome Boatman, and others. But, not for the song/tune that John Duffey is doing in the video!

    So, I'm depending on my smart group members to help me!

    Or, it could be that I posted a video of a different tune called The Boatman, that the person who suggested that tune!

  2. Michael Pastucha
    Michael Pastucha
    Here's a tune called Boatman, played by Mike Compton on mandolin in the key of A. It's also called Boatman Sing or Boatman Dance. I've also heard it in the key of D. This Boatman is a civil war tune and it does have lyrics too. This just might be the tune as it's an old time tune...

    Here's Boatman Dance with vocals.

    X: 1
    T: Dance Boatman Dance
    R: reel
    M: 4/4
    L: 1/8
    K: Amaj
    |:aAaA aAaA|bAaA aAaA|bAaA efec|BAcB A4:|
    |:f4 e3e|f2d2 e4|defa efec|BAcB A4:|
    |:A2A2A2 B/c/d|ecAc e2cB|A3B cBA2|F3F EFAB|
    A2A2A2 B/c/d|ecAc e4|defa efec|BAcB A4:|
  3. Bob Michel
    Bob Michel
    It’s a pretty common tune in American old-time circles, and like some other old-time standards (“Angeline the Baker” and “Kingdom Coming/Year of Jubilo” come to mind), it started out as a 19th century minstrel song. This one was published in 1843 by Dan Emmet, who’s better known as the writer of “Dixie.”

    Original tune and lyrics are here:


    Bob Michel
    Near Philly
  4. Barbara Shultz
    Barbara Shultz
    Thanks, guys!
  5. JL277z
    Michael and Bob, thanks for those links!

    Franklin George (of West Virginia) recorded a fine banjo version, although not in the key of A (probably playing without a capo) and also not at standard pitch either, also it gradually goes out of tune (pitch gets lower) after the first minute or so, not unusual with non-plastic-head banjos:

    (or direct link)

    Tinkering follows! Below, I used Audacity to change the first 41 seconds of the recording to the key of A (EDUCATIONAL FAIR USE, it's *not* the entire track) and *also* I fine-tuned it to A440 standard pitch (or as close as I could get, anyway) so I didn't have to retune my instruments to play along with it. (I'd already bought the 99-cent single track version from Amazon [1] because it seems to be slightly better sound quality than YouTube videos, thus somewhat better suited to changing stuff via Audacity.) Figured maybe some other people might find this stuff useful perhaps, so thought I'd post the results below.

    Pitch adjusted to key of A, and as close as I could get to standard A440:

    Next, slowed down to half-speed, octave lower (no warbling), still A440, I prefer this method because I'm used to it from the old days of slowing down records on a turntable:

    Now, just slightly slowed down but without pitch change, still at A440:

    The next one uses (IMO) the least-useful slow-down technique although most modern people seem to prefer this method, it's half-speed with no pitch change, but it has warbling which IMO makes it harder to figure out the notes:

    (Yeah I know, this isn't BanjoCafe, but I like Franklin George's playing and it seems like a good tune to play mandolin along with.)

    If for some reason the above embedded mp3 players don't work, the mp3 attachments can be found at the MandolinCafe "Thread for Social Group MP3 Posting".

    1. Seems that Frank George calls the tune "Boatsman" (note the "s") rather than "Boatman". Anyway, the original non-modified version is on the 1994 County Records album "Traditional Music For Banjo, Fiddle & Bagpipes" on Amazon (NFI). The track "Boatsman" is at the above album link and also at the Amazon individual track page.
  6. JL277z
    Here's my try.

    Three different things here...

    1. The video is mandolin only, acoustic (unplugged), pardon the background noise. Audio is straight from the old camcorder's built-in mic, no reverb, no EQ, no compression, no nothin'... I *thought* I had the Zoom recorder turned on too, but I didn't, and I was too tired to redo the take, so I only have the camcorder's mic recording which is rather low quality but it will have to suffice.

    Mandolin tuned AEAE which 'rings' naturally. I was listening to a backing track (headphones) while recording this, but this video is just the mandolin - pretty rough, out of a 10 minute recording this was the only marginally-usable part. It will presumably get better if I can remember to practice it more:

    (or direct link)

    2. In case you're wondering what kind of goofy oddball backing track I was listening to in my headphones, below I went ahead and stuck the backing track onto the video's mandolin audio so you can get an idea of what I was hearing while I was playing - CAUTION, the following is *not* exactly traditional!

    In the mp3 audio file immediately above, the backing is from ChordPulse style "Good Time", tempo 115 (sort of half the actual tempo I think), various settings changed from default via the ChordPulse "Play" > "Mixer" menu.

    3. If there are any ChordPulse users out there, the actual .cps file can be downloaded here, ignore the "preview didn't load" and just click the Download button. I'm probably overly 'creative' with some of my chord changes, the tune would probably be just fine with about 1/10 as many chord changes as what I'm using, but it's just something fun to play around with. Making up for lost time I guess, I never really got into chord stuff until the last couple years.

    I'm not too worried about using the 'wrong' type of backing tracks, heck I find the oddball backings inspirational as to new rhythms (I like the bass and drums thing, at least some of them). No worse than a metronome, anway. I grew up playing fiddle tunes the 'right' way, and I still enjoy listening to that, but for my own playing I like to experiment a little bit.

    So... that's my take on this tune. Now I want to hear some other versions from everyone else here.
  7. Bob Michel
    Bob Michel
    That’s a sweet version, JL277z. You have a lovely, gentle way with the tune, and I love the cross-tuning.

    I decided to have a go at the unusual (AABCB) setting associated with the great West Virginia fiddler Ed Haley (1885-1951). Like a lot of Haley’s settings, it’s distinctive enough to be almost another tune. It would probably also have profited from AEAE tuning, but I was too lazy.

    This one’s played on some different gear from what I’ve been using in my last several videos: my Flatiron A5 and Guild D40, both back from recent repairs.

    Bob Michel
    Near Philly
  8. Michael Pastucha
    Michael Pastucha
    Nicely played JL277z! Thanks for all the hardwork and the various backing tracks. Very helpful.

    Well done, Bob Michel. Great variation putting the c part in between the two b parts. Thanks for that!
  9. JL277z
    Bob Michel, sounds great!

    And thanks, Bob Michel and Michael Pastucha, for the kind words.
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