2019-01 Tune of the Month - Wildwood Flower

  1. HonketyHank
    The Tune of the Month for January 2019 is "Wildwood Flower", recorded in 1928 by the Carter Family. This is primarily known as a guitar tune -- but it is so widely played that it is pretty much a required piece of any American country/folk/jazz/blues musician's repertoire.

    Maybelle Carter (Mother Maybelle) allegedly played almost every tune in the key of C. She just made heavy use of a capo. In this video, it looks to me like she is playing in the actual key of F# (or is it Gb? yikes, whatever you call it) - chording C, F, and G7 with her capo on the 6th fret. I have heard that she played a few tunes in the key of B or Bb by stopping the whole show and retuning her guitar down a half tone or two so she could chord it in C.

    This video of Maybelle Carter singing and playing Wildwood Flower was made about 30 years after the original recording. Backup guitar is played by Earl Scruggs (!) who seems very interested in watching that "Carter Scratch" reverse clawhammer thing that Maybelle does on her guitar.

    There are tabs here at mandozine.com: http://www.mandozine.com/music/searc...chfor=wildwood . Also here at www.traditionalmusic.co.uk: http://www.traditionalmusic.co.uk/ma...ood_Flower.htm.

    Here is an ABC:

    T:Wildwood Flower
    R:Old Time
    EF|: G2 Ac E2 FE| D2 FB, C2 EF| G2 Ac E2 FE| D2 FB, C2 G2|
    | e2 ed c2 GG|A2 BA G2 E2| E2 ED E2 GE| D2 FB, C2 :|

    The Song A Week thread for Wildwood Flower is here: https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/g...cussionid=1092.

    Woodie Guthrie used this tune plus an added chorus for his song "The Sinking of the Rueben James".
  2. maudlin mandolin
    maudlin mandolin

    I have owned a mandola for some years but never got round to learning how to play it, so I have joined up in the hope that the discipline of a tune a month will help me buckle down to it.
    This arrangement is from Jack Tottle's book Bluegrass Mandolin and has no note lower than middle C; important if you are playing in CGDA tuning.
  3. HonketyHank
    Good job there, mm. That is an nice looking mandola. Sounds good too. What is the scale length?
  4. Mark Gunter
    Mark Gunter
    Thanks for breaking the ice this month, Maudlin! Great job and the mandola is wonderful.
  5. Sleet
    Nice arrangement, Maudlin, and good job tackling it on the mandola.
  6. bbcee
    You've crossed over to the dark side, MM - your mandolin will now gather dust Nice version and the mandola sounds great. Thanks for posting!
  7. maudlin mandolin
    maudlin mandolin
    Thanks for your comments. Henry- I find that the scale length is 19 inches - quite long for a mandola.
  8. bbcee
    Indeed! My mandola is just 16", according to Eastman. Yours is practically an OM stretch.
  9. HonketyHank
    I worked on this tune a fair amount but never found a way to play it that I enjoyed playing. I played it in different keys, at different tempos, with variations and different licks. For a while I worked on playing five verses in five descending keys but that proved to be devilishly difficult (not so much the tunes, but the transitions). Nothing worked for me. I put it away and decided to move on. I pretty much decided to skip TOM this month.

    Then I acquired this mandolin and discovered how sweet the notes are up the neck a bit. And today being the end of the month I figured I would resurrect Wildwood Flower in a way that I might tackle and still be a challenge. So I decided to make Wildwood Flower into a two octave exercise so I could demonstrate the mandolin a bit and still get the tune of the month done.

    I am playing in the key of A and I chose that key for two reasons. The lower octave version requires some stretches to the sixth fret on the low G string which are slightly out of my comfort zone on a wide-nut mandolin. The higher octave goes up to the ninth fret on the E string (C#), which means I have to leave the comfort of the open position and go 'up the neck' a bit. I found that moving up to third position made for an easy transition and easy play of subsequent notes in the tune. And this mandolin does sound sweet in third position, doesn't it?

    This is a very much stripped down, bare-bones version. But heck, this is a guitar tune, not a mandolin tune.

  10. Sleet
    Henry, I'm glad you revisited the tune and slipped it in just at the end of the month. That is one charming mandolin, and if I'm ever reckless enough to covet another, it will be one like that. I never got beyond the basics with the tune, though I spent some time on Banjo Ben's tutorial and thought it had possibilities. Your transitions between octaves look nice and smooth.
  11. bbcee
    @Hank, I was in the same boat as you not being able to find a version that grabbed me, but your inspired version has inspired me to try it again. That is SOME mando as well! Seems like you've gotten yourself two lifetime instruments in what, three months? Well played - keep 'em coming!
  12. HonketyHank
    I am calling this a 'Tune of the Fortnite' because I abandonned the Mandolin Cafe Tune of the Month for January 2019 mid month and decided to work on this tune instead.

    Sergeant Early's Dream was first published in "O'Neill's Music of Ireland: 1850 Melodies" (aka "O'Neill's 1850"), published in 1903, as played by Chicago police sergeants James Early (piper) and James McFadden (fiddler) who were originally from adjacent counties in Ireland. This may be an Irish-American tune, as it appears to be much better known in the USA than Britain or Ireland. In O'Neill's 1850, the tune is attributed to McFadden, but this might mean only that McFadden was O'Neill's source. It is likely, though, that this was an original composition by McFadden. The tune was written in the key of G (A Dorian mode), which barely accomodates the fiddler who is less comfortable playing "up the neck", while still being playable on the pipes or flute. Modern transcriptions are more often in D Dorian (key of C), which allows the fiddler to play entirely in open position (while giving the pipers and flautists a break to go get another pint or do what needs to be done).

    Sergeant Early was Sgt. James Early of the Chicago, Illinois, police departmant. He and another Chicago police sergeant, James McFadden (composer of this tune), often played duets of Irish music, Early on pipes and McFadden on fiddle. Both were Irish immigrants from adjacent counties in Connacht province. Between them, they brought a huge repertoire of traditional tunes.

    I have found no evidence of this tune earlier than its publication in O'Neill's 1850, in 1903, where it is attributed to McFadden. Francis O'Neill was the Chicago chief of police from 1901 to 1905. His hobby was collecting Irish music. He played flute, fiddle, and pipes. During his career with the Chicago police department, he persuaded many traditional Irish musicians, including Early and McFadden, to join. His "O'Neill's 1850" and the subsequent "Dance Music of Ireland" (aka "O'Neill's 1001") are essential reference works for Celtic musicians on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

    O'Neill's 1850 shows this tune with the key signature of A. This is a typo that is still visible in modern reprints. It should be just one sharp. The notes are correct for the key of G. O'Neill's 1001 includes this tune with identical notes but with key signature corrected to one sharp.


  13. Sleet
    That's a great tune, Henry, and I enjoyed your rendition. I was inspired to tackle this with my fiddle teacher a few months ago after hearing a recording of it played a a slow tempo, which was effective with this moody tune. I play it from the Portland Collection in Dm.
  14. maudlin mandolin
    maudlin mandolin

    Great stuff Henry. There is also Sgt Early's jig which used to be a favourite of mine. There was a lesson about it in Mandozine.
    But back to the tune of the month; the Jack Tottle version was very definitely bluegrass with lots of repeated notes. This one is from Dan Fox's Mandolin Gold ans is more old timey.
  15. bbcee
    Here's a pretty loosey-goosey version. I really had trouble getting this one to sit in any sort of groove, and haven't had the time to really focus in on it. Mandolin & u-bass.

  16. HonketyHank
    Well, you know, that was interesting. Well played. Catchy. Different enough in a pleasing way to bring a smile to my face.

    What is a u-bass? sounded a bit like a tuba - I think that was one thing that added a new and different wrinkle to the tune.
  17. bbcee
    A u-bass is a ukulele bass. The magic is in the poly-somethingorother strings, that give it a kind of upright bass sound (if it sounds like a tuba, it must be my playing!). Kala is the best-known maker, but I got a cheap, decent Chinese one for €100.00 that is a perfect learning tool. It's fun to be trying a new instrument with this music. As if one wasn't enough ...

    Lots of info out there, here's one link: http://ukuleleguy.com/u-bass
  18. HonketyHank
    Well, I'll be hornswaggled. Googled it and found some videos and by golly, the u-bass is indeed a thing. Looks like fun. Those strings look like licorice or maybe black gummy-worms. Maybe this is the modern descendant of that long sought and seldom seen instrument, the basso continuo.
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