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I just don't find any sadness in the blues... I get a happy feeling when I hear a guitar tuning up. - Etta Baker, quoted in Woman With Guitar: Memphis Minnie's Blues by Paul and Beth Garon

Author Topic: Guitar / Fiddle Duets  (Read 1786 times)

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Offline ThatGuy

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Guitar / Fiddle Duets
« on: April 15, 2021, 03:55:33 AM »
Hi all

I'm looking for suggestions for guitar and fiddle duets. I know of a couple of Frank Stokes tunes, but I don't find them particularly compelling. My wife plays fiddle, but if I'm going to bully her into playing a couple of CB tunes they'll need to be good!

We're in Ireland, and pre-COVID we gigged as a two-piece playing Irish ballads and trad, so with the right couple of songs we should be able to knock them together easily enough!

Offline dj

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Re: Guitar / Fiddle Duets
« Reply #1 on: April 15, 2021, 05:04:40 AM »
Rather than list specific artist or songs, I'll point out that Old Hat Records, http://www.oldhatrecords.com/releases.html, has three discs of blues violin by various artists.  The discs are Violin Sing The Blues For Me, Folks He Sure Do Some Bow, and Fiddle Noir.  Check out the track listings, buy the discs or search out the titles online, and see what appeals to you.

Also, don't necessarily think of songs that were originally guitar and fiddle duets.  Some guitar/harmonica stuff sounds like it could be effectively translated to guitar/fiddle.  Blind Boy Fuller's second recording of Mama Let Me Lay It On You, with Sonny Terry on harmonica, falls into this category, as does Sonny Boy Williamson's Good Morning Little Schoolgirl.  (One caveat:  I say this as a non-fiddle player!)

Offline ThatGuy

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Re: Guitar / Fiddle Duets
« Reply #2 on: April 15, 2021, 05:28:15 AM »
Thanks dj. You make a good point about playing harp lines on fiddle, but I'd say that will be a hard sell for me. Blues is my passion, not hers!

Saying that, I could take a stab transcribing the harp lines and I'm sure she'd give it a go

I will definitely check out Old Hat though

Offline jostber

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Re: Guitar / Fiddle Duets
« Reply #3 on: April 15, 2021, 10:38:20 AM »

Offline Thomas8

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Re: Guitar / Fiddle Duets
« Reply #4 on: April 15, 2021, 11:25:30 AM »
Anything by the Sheiks has surely got to drum up some level of interest.

Offline Johnm

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Re: Guitar / Fiddle Duets
« Reply #5 on: April 15, 2021, 11:28:34 AM »
Hi,
I would encourage your wife to figure out the fiddle parts or harmonica parts by ear. It shouldn't be necessary to transcribe melody lines of that sort--they're easy to hear. Best of luck to her in doing that.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Prof Scratchy

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Re: Guitar / Fiddle Duets
« Reply #6 on: April 15, 2021, 11:30:12 AM »
Suggest you go to frankie12string’s YouTube channel and check out all the videos by Little Brothers.

Offline waxwing

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Re: Guitar / Fiddle Duets
« Reply #7 on: April 15, 2021, 04:41:39 PM »
Hi TG,

I have given this some thought, both because of a friend up in Portland whom I play with occasionally, and because just before the lock down I started practicing with a fiddler here in the Bay Area. I think you are probably like me and would like to find songs that are good pieces for both instruments. Playing boom-chang chords behind the fifdle soloist is not really that exciting, even if you are playing in E flat and doing the singing.

So a couple of songs that I found to be a little more interesting are Stop and Listen, by the Mississippi Sheiks, and Cold Iron Bed, by Jack Kelly's West Memphis Jug Band, with Will Batts on Fiddle. Jack Kelly actually has a slew of songs based on this arrangement in Spanish tuning, Highway 61 and others, and there are further versions of Stop and Listen in the Sheiks' repertoire. Stop and Listen is pretty much the same arrangement that Sam Chatmon played for Brown Skin Woman, which you can see on YT.

Another recording group to look at is Andrew and Jim Baxter, altho again, mostly boom-chang. I looked at their KC Railroad blues and thought about melding it with KC Moan by the Memphis JB, which has a nice slide part that Charlie Burse probably did on a Tenor guitar and I have augmented some in a previous JB I was with. This is another song where the fiddle could pick up some licks from harmonica, which is a strategy I have also considered. Another song that I have worked on for when I get back with a fiddler is Fattnin' Frogs for Snakes, the version by The Mobile Strugglers. It is a large string band with actually two fiddlers and a mando, too. I kind of put together a guitar part using the mostly boom-chang guitar part and the Mando licks. This was a great exercise in learning how to play in the Key of F. I agree with dj on the Old Hat compilations, but again, many have a simple boom-chang guitar backing, or a larger band, but food for thought. Another good fiddle/guitar duo to look at might be Peg Leg Howell and Eddie Anthony, altho I haven't checked them out closely, yet. The Patton material with Simms is great guitar of course, but less than virtuoso fiddle, but could be augmented. But that brings to mind the fact that, though Patton was playing in E forms tuned or capped to F, Simms was probably playing in F, which my fiddler friends tell me is a favored key for them.

Wax
« Last Edit: April 15, 2021, 04:55:41 PM by waxwing »
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CD on YT

Offline Parlor Picker

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Re: Guitar / Fiddle Duets
« Reply #8 on: April 16, 2021, 01:52:52 AM »
Suggest you go to frankie12string’s YouTube channel and check out all the videos by Little Brothers.

Exactly what I was thinking, but the good Professor beat me to it. The recordings by Frankie, Kim & Mike are outstanding and make for very enjoyable listening.
"I ain't good looking, teeth don't shine like pearls,
So glad good looks don't take you through this world."
Barbecue Bob

Offline ThatGuy

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Re: Guitar / Fiddle Duets
« Reply #9 on: April 16, 2021, 03:03:49 AM »
Thanks all

I didn't know the term for it, but waxwing you've nailed it there with the problem with a lot of the duets being boom-chang songs, which aren't too compelling guitar-wise!

I certainly find that with the Mississippi Sheiks. They wouldn't be in my normal listening rotation, although I could be in danger of being unfair to them and will give them another go

I'll put a bit of time into it over the next while. There might be some mix-and-match to be done. For example laying the fiddle from Sittin' on Top of the World and laying it over Come on In My Kitchen

Offline Stuart

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Re: Guitar / Fiddle Duets
« Reply #10 on: April 18, 2021, 06:18:17 PM »
Hi TG:

Another place to look for material that you could re-work into guitar-fiddle duets is the recordings of the Country or Hillbilly string bands. County, JSP, Document, etc. all have collections and my guess is that many of the titles in the sets are available on YouTube.

I agree with Wax in that boom-chang isn't exactly inspiring or compelling guitar playing given what we usually focus on here. But if the song is a good one and the fiddle part is solid, then you can always rework the guitar part to bring it more in line with what you want to hear.

String bands are just that: bands--and obviously you'd have to pare down what several instruments are playing to something that sounds good on guitar alone, but it can be done.

Anyway, this is just a suggestion and you can follow up or ignore it as you see fit.

BTW, I was listening to the JSP set, "Classic Field Recordings: Landmark country sessions from a lost era" yesterday (mistitled as none are actual field recordings) and the Tennessee Ramblers' "Don't Put A Tax On The Beautiful Girls" caught my attention. A quick search revealed it was/is a pop tune that was recorded by Eddie Cantor in 1919. A couple of links as an FYI:





Offline Johnm

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Re: Guitar / Fiddle Duets
« Reply #11 on: April 18, 2021, 06:30:00 PM »
Stuart's suggestion to look at Hillbilly/Old-Time material is a good one, because there were some ripping fiddle players recording in the '20s and '30s, like Odell Smith, and Jess Johnston, with Charlie Poole, Roy Harvey and Walter "Kid" Smith. There are lots of great fiddle blues among that material.

Offline lindy

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Re: Guitar / Fiddle Duets
« Reply #12 on: April 18, 2021, 07:14:34 PM »
Here's a suggestion for a more recent CD that contains renditions of many tunes originally recorded in the 1920s/30s: "Texas Sheiks," sometimes promoted as "Geoff Muldaur and the Texas Sheiks." Uniformly brilliant from beginning to end, with Suzy Thompson in charge of all the fiddle work. You won't find anyone with more knowledge of old-time blues fiddle.

L

Offline Thomas8

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Re: Guitar / Fiddle Duets
« Reply #13 on: April 19, 2021, 12:25:24 PM »
I don't understand this distaste for boom-chang accompaniments, if the rhythms right it's far more enjoyable than finger picking and it serves the song that much more. I think it's similar to opinions on Jimmy Reeds accompaniment style, folks may disagree with me here but when you get a Jimmy Reed Chicago "lump" in the pocket it's more rewarding than any fancy bend or lick you could do, you might not turn as many heads but achh who needs turned heads.

Offline Stuart

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Re: Guitar / Fiddle Duets
« Reply #14 on: April 19, 2021, 12:57:13 PM »
Hi Thomas8: Speaking for myself, it's not a distaste, but the sense that what ThatGuy is referring to doesn't fill the bill with respect to the sound he's after when playing duets with his wife on fiddle.

I think there are many songs where boom-chang is preferable and anything else would be over-playing the guitar. And of course in a string band, how many notes do we really need before the sound becomes cluttered? That's what solo breaks are for, if one chooses to take one.

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