Week #245 ~ Calum's Road ~ Strathspey

  1. Barbara Shultz
    Barbara Shultz
    Happy New Year! This week's winner is Calum's Road, which was submitted as a Strathspey. I'm not familiar with this tune...

    Here is a link to the notation and abc on abcnotation.com from Nigel Gatherer's site.

    Here's a link to the notation and abc on abcnotation.com from John Chambers' collection.

    Here are some You Tube videos:

  2. Francis J
    Francis J
    After three attempts to post it, and two deleted posts ( I lost the ability to copy and paste a simple piece of text for a minute there!). Here it is on the Joe Foley mandolin(s} and Bouzouki.

  3. James Rankine
    James Rankine
    Lovely Francis - has the Strathspey bounce.

    John, or one of the other Scots, will correct me if I'm way off mark, but a Strathspey is a Scottish dance which is fairly slow and characterised by intermittent hops (there is probably a more technical name for this). The music has a dotted rhythm (propels the dancers to hop) but it is slower than a hornpipe. More stately and less bouncy than a hornpipe (but still hoppy if that makes sense). Looking at the notation the dotted rhythm looks a bit off putting but I think a beautiful slow tune like this would also make a lovely aire played without the dotted rhythm.

    The tune was written in honour of Calum Macleod, a crofter on the Island of Raasay, (off the west coast of Scotland) who battled for decades to get the local council to build a road to the isolated community in the north of the Island where he lived. The council prevaricated, backed by influential landowners who had no desire to see a road running through their prime shooting estate, until the community was depleted to just Calum and his wife. He took things into his own hands and using nothing more than a pick axe, his own strength and an old manual on road building, built the two mile road to connect them with the rest of the community in the south. He worked on this in the 1960s and toiled almost daily for over a decade until it was completed. Every bolder in his path had to be broken up by hand and turned into rubble. It is now the chief tourist attract on the Island, and if you look on youtube you will see video of people travelling along the road which winds up and down over the roughest of terrain. It is an astonishing achievement.
    He died suddenly of a presumed heart attack in 1988 whilst out working on his land aged 76.
    There is a book, Calum's Road, which tells the whole story and is well worth a read. A British film company has acquired the rights so the story of a hard working man, pitting himself against the authorities to preserve the lifestyle of a dying community and battling with a harsh environment to triumph, may hit the big screens one day making the story, and tune, more famous.
  4. James Rankine
    James Rankine
    Here's my version on Mandolin and Classical Guitar.

  5. David Hansen
    David Hansen
    Well done Francis and James. I am not sure that I would call this tune a strathspey but pretty much anything with a "scotch snap" in it is considered a strathspey. A "Scotch snap" is basically a short note followed by a long note and should really be called a Scots snap. Scotch is a drink.!!! Sorry but my grandmother was from Scotland. At any rate this tune feels more like a March to me than a strathspey so that's how I tried to play it.

  6. Bertram Henze
    Bertram Henze
    Working on it. It seems to be generally accepted to be a strathspey, though it has marchy feeling to it like David says. But to be a march, shouldn't it have a completely different title of the kind "The <insert number of regiment>'s Farewell to <insert name of geographical location>"?
  7. John Kelly
    John Kelly
    Fine versions of the tune here, Francis, James and David, and all that wee bit different so that you each put your own mark on them! I like the Moon mando, James - Jimmy Moon is a good Scottish builder of excellent instruments.

    Our version of the tune abandons the strathspey rhythm and is paired with Flett from Flotta (the first tune in our set here) to give us a Gay Gordons feel - that's a Scottish dance, for those of you not familiar with our Scottish Country Dances. Incidentally, the Strathspey as a musical form only exists in Scottish music!

    Played on accordion by Derek Macdonald and by myself on guitar and mandolin, and posted away back in 2011! How time flies.

  8. Francis J
    Francis J
    That's an amazing story James, nice chords as well! thanks for sharing it....I had no idea. In fact I just learned the tune from the midi version on thesession.org. I now wish I had given more time to do it justice. I have the greatest respect for someone who fights for his rights against the politics of those who feel they have a right to be better off. I can definitely pick up the evidence of Scots blood in your version David. John, your version has a magic lilt to it.
  9. laura809
    James, I also enjoyed hearing the story behind this song. The notated rhythm was tricky for me, and I definitely made some modifications to facilitate playing along at the pace of my backing track. Not knowing anything about Scottish music, I'm not sure how close my interpretation is to what was intended, but I did really enjoy this tune. Something about the A part makes me want to smile, which is funny since it was written about the laborious task of building a rode.
  10. John Kelly
    John Kelly
    Laura, you have put yet another slightly different feel to the tune and I like your interpretation and the rhythmic pattern you use.

    The Capercaillie version posted by Barbara is interesting as the composer of the tune, Donald Shaw, is also the leader of this fine Scottish band. Would that make their interpretation the definitive version? Barbara's second posting is played by Dagger Gordon, one of our very finest Scottish mandolin players.
  11. Obiwan
    I enjoyed everyones version so far and inspired me on mine . I don not know this toon or Scottish music but it sounds beautiful and am happy to learn it , I busted out the deering tenor banjo and blew the dust off the accordion from when I purchased it and of course my guitar and my girouard mandolin

  12. Hendrik Luurtsema
    Hendrik Luurtsema
    I love Scottisch music especially those with the "Scots Snaps" in it. I've heard a lot of nice versions so far so I gave it a try. I made the video's a month ago while I was cycling.

  13. maudlin mandolin
    maudlin mandolin

    Various different approaches to playing the Scottish snap this week. The story was dramatized on Radio 4 last October and has also toured as a stage play. Apparently when Calum Macleod died his body was found in the same wheelbarrow he used to build the road.
  14. Bertram Henze
    Bertram Henze
    Apparently when Calum Macleod died his body was found in the same wheelbarrow he used to build the road.

    Now if that doesn't make a good ghost story I don't know what will. They'll never succeed in building that new motorway bypass over his road because Calum is still guarding it...

    Obiwan, that accordian makes it sound even more Scottish than the snaps (I guess that is Phil Cunningham's fault )
  15. woodenfingers
    A sunny day here today. -14F (-26C) with a wind chill of -34F (-36C) and there are 4 foot snow drifts in the laneway so thought I would try my hand at this.

    I had a heck of a time trying to get the hang of these Scot's Snaps (sounds like a cookie (biscuit)) and I'm still not sure I have it right. I even tried setting the metronome to 16/16 time to get that 3/16th to 1/16th split but couldn't keep track of all the metronome beats. Tried treating them like grace notes and that helped some and then listening to versions above got me to where I'm at... Great versions by all. Obiwan, nice to hear another accordion and well played too.

    I don't know a strathspey from a jig or reel so I don't know what the dancers are doing but I thought I would go for dancers instead of the road in the video. Luurtie, great playing as usual and it is nice to see video of your country.

  16. Ben Cooper
    Ben Cooper
    Wow, I love all the versions! As a relative newbie many of these kinda make me nervous and want to hide away until I get better. I think I want to really try this one though!
  17. Martin Jonas
    Martin Jonas
    Nice tune, and lots of good versions. I hadn't played it before, but I found that it falls under the fingers fairly easily and the rhythm almost plays itself. My recording is based on yet another harmony arrangement I found online, this one by Sarah Northcott (Link), which gives the tune with chords, harmonies and a cello part in bass clef. I've followed the instruction on the arrangement and have played the tune three times:

    1. Tune/chords/cello
    2. Tune/chords/cello/harmony (I'm also doubling the tune an octave down on waldzither)
    3A. Tune/chords
    3B. Tune/chords/cello/harmony (again with octave doubling)

    Tune: Mid-Missouri M-0W mandolin
    Harmony: Gibson Ajr mandolin
    Octave doubling: Zimmermann waldzither
    Chords: Ozark tenor guitar
    "Cello": Troubadour Lionheart bouzouki


  18. John Kelly
    John Kelly
    More excellent versions! Luurti, had Calum lived in your part of the world instead of mine the road would have been built in much less time, I reckon; great terrain for cycling!
    Bob, think of the Snap in the way pipers describe it, as a "dot and cut" - i.e. a dotted quaver then semi quaver. The order of the two is frequently reversed and this is part of what gives the tunes their lift. You have a very good attempt in your playing. By the way, the dancers with arms raised and fingers pointing to the sky are engaged in a Highland Fling, a dance which is supposed to emulate the red deer stag on the hill, with the arms as the antlers and the fingers as the points on the antlers. Don't say we Scots are not creative!
  19. Hendrik Luurtsema
    Hendrik Luurtsema
    I wish we had a "highland road" (I love that McCalmans tune) in Holland, flat lowlands below sealevel is all we've got. But 52F (11Celcius) is a fine temperature on 7 januari I guess. Hope you have enough blanket's and wood for the stove Woodenfingers!
    I love tunes with a good story. This one is nice and I especially love the versions from Obiwan and John Kelly with the accordeon in it. Everyone did a good job but Laura made a very nice version with a completely different feeling,
  20. warh0rn

    Its rough... I had to dust off a few instruments I haven't played in awhile and see how well they recorded... and what I could do with them with little practice... also I wanted to experiment with styles... as you can hear I have no idea what I should doing :p The bodhran sounds better with headphones! -Mel
  21. laura809
    Mel, that was an excellent and very full arrangement. I really liked how you built it up slowly and changed the whole feel part way through. The drum really added a lot.
  22. Bertram Henze
    Bertram Henze
    Mel, I must say this is the first time I ever heard a strathspey accompanied with a bodhran. Daring & driving. Very 4/4.

    Talking about time, I always heard a jiggy rhythm behind strathspeys, supported by the triplets in the B part here. So here is my version of this tune, strathspiciously sounding like a 6/8 march (a bit fast maybe, picture a jogging pipe band or Calum MacLeod with his wheelbarrow).

  23. warh0rn
    I think I should have abandoned the written rhythm on the second version. I might go revise it later. ... And look up strathsphey... I feel like i should know what that is. Thanks for the comments.
  24. Bertram Henze
    Bertram Henze
    No reason to back off from your own bold experiment Mel, it demonstrates what ambiguous things these pointy rhythms are - the Strathspey and its Irish nemesis, the Hornpipe. There is always these two ways to hear and play the dotted pair:
    - three + 1 eighths (4/4)
    - two + 1 eighths (6/8)
    Written notation always favors the first, but is not really taken as set in stone.
  25. GKWilson
    Bertam. It's always good to hear your booming octave.
    Really liked your intricate ending.
    Mel. I really liked your arrangement.
    I love your Voight. I spent more than one night staring at pictures of it.
    With sweating hands I would repeat the mantra-
    " I don't need another mandolin, I don't need another mandolin."
    Glad to see it went to a nice home.
  26. Bertram Henze
    Bertram Henze
    intricate ending

    Thanks Gary.
  27. warh0rn
    Thanks Betram, I am trying to make a respectable recording of what I think the song should of been like(in my arraignment/rendition)… its hard though.. my work days are long 5am-5pm.. Most of my takes have noticeable mistakes and the ones that seem decent somehow seem to occur when my wife and daughter are having an "loud discussion"… ah life. I also want to make a video every week so it might take awhile until a good recording is made.

    Wilson my Voight mandolin sounds better than in the recordings.. I just can't seem to capture the sound…(I am using a vocal mic) but everyone that hears its always comments on how nice it sounds. It has a really bright, clear, pleasant, and happy sound to it. You don't need another mandolin.. you just need 1 Voight mandolin.
  28. Bertram Henze
    Bertram Henze
    Once you're used to playing in pub sessions, loud discussions are an indispensable background feature to make it all sound authentic
  29. crisscross
    My tenor banjo complained to me, that during the last years, it had become more of a wallhanger.
    So I took it off its wall hook, removed the dust and put on some new nylgut strings.
    Then, I went looking for a tune, that even a banjically challenged person like me could halfway deccently master.
    I discovered Calum's Road, listened to all those fine versions on this page, and decided to give it a try.
    I really have to work on my picked triplets though...
  30. John Kelly
    John Kelly
    Christian, nice to hear this great tune being revived by you more than five years on from the last posting. Looking back through the offerings, I realised that my posting was in January 2014. My accordion-playing buddy Derek passed away in January 2016, so I dedicate your version here today to Derek's memory. It was a tune he loved. The Aquila strings sound good on this recording too!
  31. Robert Balch
    Robert Balch
    Well done crisscross. This is such a great tune. I think I need to play it today!
  32. Frithjof
    Good job, Christian.
    And good idea to revsit all these nice versions above.
  33. crisscross
    Thanks John, Robert and Frithjof!
    This is a real nice tune, it has its rhythmic pitfalls, but it was fun to play it myself and listen to the other great versions!
  34. Ginny Aitchison
    Ginny Aitchison
    Very nice CC !! A favourite for many of us and the banjo adds an interesting element to an otherwise short tune.
  35. Bertram Henze
    Bertram Henze
    Spiritually authentic rendition, Christian. It has that modest but strong optimism Calum was famous for.
    When we were in Skye in July, we briefly considered making the short crossing from Sconser to Raasay and hiking Calum's historic road, but then I read that the council had it covered with tarmac in the meantime and decided that it would not be the same (despite being what Calum wanted them to do all that time).
  36. crisscross
    Thanks Ginny and Bertram!
    The story of Callum's Road surely is an interesting one, hadn't heard of it, before I discovered the tune.
Results 1 to 36 of 36