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Old Time Jam with a couple of surprises.

Posted by fiddlepogo on Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Old Time Jam I host was today.  We had some problems with scheduling, since the cafe has shifted from short summer hours  to "normal" school year hours.  But instead of closing at 5:00 pm like they used to on Saturdays (the same as the rest of the week) they now close at 4:00 pm on Saturday. So I had to contact the regulars by e-mail and let them know that we were going from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm (instead of 1:00 to 3:00 pm summer hours, or 2:00 to 5:00 pm former regular jam hours.

I got so engrossed in a bowing post that I got a late start to the jam venue!  But I got even later because of all the foot traffic on the crosswalks near the campus, and the parking lot being full instead of empty- the students are back!!!  Fortunately I was only a couple of minutes late, and only one person got there before me, and he's almost always early.

Once we got going, most of the regular people were showing, but I was a bit surprised by one of the guitarists was more of a country guitarist who shows often at the other folk and bluegrass jams.  I did suggest the guideline about "1930 and before, more or less " and she did really well and picked some great old songs.  I think everything sung was actually quite old and either traditional or Stephen Foster (Hard Times!) We also did: My Home's Across the Blueridge Mountains,  Footprints in the Snow (Associated with Bluegrass, but apparently quite old), Sittin' on Top of the World (I remember Hobart Smith doing that), East Virginia, and I'm having a "senior moment" on the rest!!!

We also did quite a few fiddle tunes: Seneca Square Dance, Shove That Pigs Foot, Jubalo/Eighth of January, Soldier's Joy, Arkansas Traveler, Whiskey Before Breakfast, St. Anne's Reel, Blackberry Blossom, Cherokee Shuffle and Liza Jane.

I'm really happy with the way the songs are going... overall, people are getting the idea really well, even if Old Time isn't their "bag", and are singing some of the oldest most traditional numbers in their repertoire.  And since some of them regularly sing country and/or bluegrass, it gives them a strong country flavor, which I think is TOTALLY appropriate, since Old Time is really Old Time Country!!!!  The general feel of the whole jam, songs and tunes IS very much like 78 recordings from the '30's, and our 75 year old West Virginian seems totally comfortable with it all.  Actually the most modern thing about the jam is probably some of the fiddle tunes... Whiskey Before Breakfast and Cherokee Shuffle arent' that old, at least not in the versions we played.

The real surprise was this guy with a camera showed up and asked if he could take pictures.. we nodded yes, but I asked him later what publication he was taking pictures for... turns out it's some blog in... NORWAY??? But this fellow wasn't Norwegian... something odd about that, unless there are some unusual things going on with web hosting these days.  Anyway, he gave me a website url and said the photos will be up in a few weeks, so maybe I'll have some photos of the jam I can point the way to!!!  It did make me a bit nervous though, since it's not just photos, but video too.  And I didn't warm up as usual before the jam, and although I did practice last night, I didn't practice the two nights before that.  So, my playing may have been a little rough... and knowing I was being recorded may have made it rougher.... ARGHHHH!!!!

And he even videoed me learning a version of "East Virginia" out of a book-  I'm pretty familiar with it from a recording, but had never tried to sing it or perform it in public! Double ARGHHHH!!!!

And there was even a beginning fiddler who showed up and listened... and whom I may have scared away afterwards with my geeky excess of enthusiasm and advice... TRIPLE ARGHHHH!!!

However, thinking about it afterwards, I think I got an insight into the nature of geekiness that may have redeemed the blunder somewhat, for me anyway.  But I won't share that here, since it doesn't have much to do with fiddling!!!!

(Later the same evening...)

I ordered a couple of sets of new strings from last week and they came yesterday.  Same old, same old- Thomastik Precision Lights with a Westminster E, except I never put the Westminster on with the Precisions when they were brand new before.  I didn't want the strings stretching and going out of tune during the jam, so I changed them a couple of hours ago... kind of ringy, still, but I'm glad I did, it was high time!!!

For adventure, I also got a sampler pack of E strings.

I put the old A on the Eastman replacing the last of the D'Addario Pro Artes.  Now it has a full set of used Thomastik Precision Lights on it... I have to wait till tomorrow to see how the full set feels and sounds.  After that, I will probably take the Prims off of the one with the dropped sound post (Stinky) and try them on the Eastman, along with an E from the sampler pack.

(Sunday evening)

It's amazing how loud the Knilling Bucharest is with the new strings- I don't remember it being this loud before- I think thinning the finish over the purfling is giving the new string more to work with.  It should be interesting to see how they settle in.  I played it a bit at the mansion earlier this evening, and enjoyed it.

It's also amazing how changing the A string from synthetic to steel changed the character of the Eastman so much when the others were already steel.  It feels more like  a fiddle now- softer than the Bucharest though, but still fiddly.  Then I put on the used Westminster E, and like it much better than the Precision Light E, which was too wimpy for this fiddle.

2 comments on “Old Time Jam with a couple of surprises.”

harwilli55 Says:
Sunday, August 22, 2010 @6:15:11 PM


What a great story to be able to live and tell :-D The Scandanavians ( being one myself of course) search the world for the weird and bizarre( ok ....what I really meant was unique and sublime) to blog home to their fellow Nords. It makes us/them all feel better that we of course are more normal than the rest of the world :-D Just kidding !!!

Sounds like you had quite the good little jam. Personally, I like it when old time jams include songs. Some of the most fun lyrics belong to some of the best fiddle tunes. I have found that often it is the fiddlers who don't sing that tend to throw wet blankets on singing. As you well know, fiddlers tend to view the OT world as their for them, everyone else is there to support them. However, if you listen to the old timers who come from the world of house dances, barn dances, and such....they all sang the lyrics. Tommy Jarrell was a credible singer....Edden Hammonds.....Luther Strong.....the list goes on and on......heck......when I listen to Rayna sing, I am transported back to the back porch of some cabin sitting high in the hollar. So, I hope you encourage it and keep it going. Teach it too. Make it a part of the jam.

I will say this about jams. The bigger the jam, the less real OT tends to get played, even though the tune might be pure OT, but the essence of the stylism gets lost in the largeness of competing sound. I suspect that is of necessity too. When you have 30 instruments playing at full volumn, there can be no singer who would be heard. While I love sitting in a jam, finding a groove, and practicing transcendental fiddle massage, I also long to sit with a small group of one instrument each, with vocals. Both are OT, both have their place. I doubt that there were much large jams in the old days. So, a whole different culture evolved around the few who did get together. They could play off each other, learn from each other, and yep.....sing !!!

I also understand that in a larger group jam, especially an open one. People new to the jam often don't really understand what OT means, or what it is, but will want to play what they know. This can lead to mission creep, which could turn the OT jam into a pop jam....doesn't matter what era......but where the focus of the group gets lost trying to accomodate way too many interests.....then the jam would become something it wasn't meant to be.......however, with good stewardship and strong leadership....I have seen OT jams become less fiddle-centric and more OT centric .. and could include songs..... which in my estimation is a good thing.


Humbled by this instrument Says:
Monday, August 23, 2010 @9:22:08 PM

Our "Sittin' on Top of the World" sounds different from any I've heard, replete with about thirty chord changes, jazzy. Yet I've grown to enjoy playing it, since I get to do so much stuff. Thanks, Curt

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