Floyd County master musician and luthier Mac Traynham is best known for his banjo building and playing, as well as his fine fiddling. He has been playing and teaching traditional music in Floyd, Virginia for decades and is a wealth of knowledge about the history of our local music traditions. A few years ago, Mac started sharing tunes and their stories to a group of friends by email. He has diligently shared one tune per week and has created quite a collection so far! The Handmade Music School aims to make these tunes and stories available to a larger audience through our blog. We invite you to give them a listen, learn more about Southwest Virginia music traditions, and follow us as we share more local tunes from Mac’s collection!
Here’s a song/tune in waltz time in honor of Mother’s Day which will be this coming Sunday. I still don’t know who wrote it but the group here performing “Sit Down and Write” is the Laurel Fork Travelers. Laurel Fork is in neighboring Carroll County, the best county in Virginia for many authentic sources of ‘real’ mountain music.
Here’s a tune that I consider to be one of the standard dance tunes today. It was found in the repertoire of many old-timers from the Blue Ridge area whose music I have heard who learned to play before World War 2. Mississippi Sawyer is a tune that I
Hello to everyone from my socially distant location in Floyd County. I knew there were good reasons to move to the country in the 1970’s way back when deciding just how I wanted to live. Here years later I have figured out yet another reason. Social distancing. I still get
Hello, I hope this finds you safe at home and not traveling. So this week's tune is the Arkansas Traveler. It is a well-known tune and has been passed around like a virus mutating as it goes. It has a comical skit that has been done many times on record
Well, I hope you are doing well in this age of COVID-19. I managed to get out on a nice hike up in the nearby Rock Castle Gorge with my buddies Hope and Charlie Thompson, and Andy Buckman last Sunday. Mindful of "social distancing" it was good to be outside
This is Floyd County’s own Dent Wimmer. A strong clawhammer banjo player who never dropped thumb. His style is full and rhythmic typical of this area where house parties and frolics with flatfoot dancing were common before WW2. He was recorded for the Old Originals project in 1973 by folklorist Tom Carter.
Here’s one from Carroll County and from the unique repertoire of Sidna (banjo) and Fulton Meyers (fiddle). In this banjo-fiddle duet the fiddle is tune like standard GDAE but lower and played in G fingering. It could be F or E if low enough. Who cares as long as it sounds good, huh? I think it's kinda cool down low like that. No rules have to apply.
Here’s wonderfully simple tune from the Kimble Family who live in the Blue Ridge Plateau area of Carroll County next door to Floyd County. It is just Taylor on fiddle and Stella on banjo as a duet. The tune is from a collection of their music recorded by Mark Sanderford. I’m sending this out since Gail Gillespie and Dwight Rogers mentioned this tune to me after a recent visit to the Kimbles.
Here’s one of my favorite C tunes played by Rafe Brady: Pallet on the Floor. The tune is from his Heritage Album recorded in the late 70’s I think it was. I got asked to play on this album but had a conflict and couldn’t do it. I think Tom Mylet is on banjo, Bobby Patterson on guitar, and Dale Morris on bass. Jenny and I lived in Grayson County from October or 1980 until March of 1984.
Back to Carroll County players Uncle Norm Edmonds and the Old-timers for this week’s tune. The name can’t be hardly any more common for a slew of different tunes that have the same name except for Sally Ann. So IDA RED means lots different tunes with the same name. This version is ‘cool’ for several reasons and I don’t think there’s another name associated with it. Please share if you know this tune and have a different name for it.
Here’s something different. I stumbled onto this today and really listened to it again. I have heard it several times in the past but today I listened with greater attention than ever and thought it would make a good choice for you all to hear as well and hopefully you’ll listen and realize you like it. I’d recommend all these tunes get listened to again and again and you’ll hopefully you’ll want to learn to play (or sing) them.
This version is most unique to the Blue Ridge area of Patrick County as far as I can tell. This beautiful tune is from the Shelor Family’s recordings. 'Callahan’ here is played here by Susan Shelor Deck (piano) and Jesse Shelor (on fiddle). I will send out the Uncle Norm Edmonds version of Callahan in a future post since it is NOT the same tune.
The tunes I choose are ones found in the repertoire of some old-timers – primarily from Floyd, Franklin, and Carroll Counties. This region is special to me because it is my home and it seems to me that the native old-time music here has been under rated. These tune nuggets are in their natural state; perhaps a bit rough, with some dirt and generally unpolished. Yet, their value is immense to me as I listen to this stuff and more daily, trying to get the details in my head so it affects my sound in a positive way.
I am sharing these recordings weekly in the interest of keeping our ‘local’ music alive here in our local jams, assuming some of you will learn the melodic and rhythmic details of the version. The details can make the difference between a generic version or a ‘cool’ tasteful version. I hope you’ll agree.
~ Mac Traynham