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If you play more than two chords you're showing off - Woody Guthrie

Author Topic: Roscoe Holcomb Lyrics  (Read 1213 times)

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Offline Johnm

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Roscoe Holcomb Lyrics
« on: August 11, 2016, 01:14:30 PM »
Hi all,
Roscoe Holcomb was first found and recorded by John Cohen of the New Lost City Ramblers in the late '50s in Kentucky.  This recording of "Moonshiner" is from the second Folkways record he was on, the somewhat misleadingly titled "Roscoe Holcomb & Wade Ward", misleading in the sense that the two musicians did not play with each other, but were rather each given one side of the record for their music.
Roscoe's emotional identification with whatever he was singing was profound and unmistakeable.  That quality taken in conjunction with what you might call the "pure sound" of his singing makes for some really intense listening.  Roscoe's quality of always being intensely present and engaged in whatever he was singing reminds me a bit of Leadbelly's singing of unaccompanied songs on the first disc of his "Last Sessions".  Neither singer's attention wanders for an instant. 
"Moonshiner" has one of those Appalachian pentatonic melodies, starting each line on the II note of the parent major pentatonic scale and concluding each line on the V note below.  The range of the melody is not great, going from the low V note it concludes on up to a high point of the III note of the parent major scale a sixth above.  Here is Roscoe's performance of "Moonshiner":

   

It's, I have been a moonshiner ever since that I've been born
It's, I've drunk up all of my money and stilled up all of my corn

It's, I'll go up some dark hollow and put up a moonshine still
Say, I'll make you one gallon for a five-dolloh bill

It's, I'll go up some dark hollow and get you some booze
It's, if the revenues don't get me, no money will I lose

It's, come on all of you moonshiners and stand all in a row
You look so sad and lonesome, you're lonesome, yes I know

It's, God bless them pretty women, I wish they all were mine
Their breath smells so sweetly like good old moonshine

All best,
Johnm

Offline Johnm

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Re: Roscoe Holcomb Lyrics
« Reply #1 on: August 24, 2016, 01:18:03 PM »
Hi all,
For his version of "Trouble In Mind", Roscoe sounds as though he was playing his banjo out of open D tuning, f#DF#AD.  Please let me know if I have this wrong, you banjo players out there.  The intensity and focus of Roscoe's vocal tone, and especially his held notes are something to marvel at in this rendition.  Here it is:



INTRO SOLO

Trouble in mind, I'm blue, but I won't be blue always
'Cause the sun's gonna shine in my back door someday

Goin' down to the railroad, lay my head down on the line
Let that eastbound freight train satisfy my worried mind

Trouble in mind, I'm blue, but I won't be blue always
'Cause the sun's gonna shine in my back door someday

Going down to the river, gonna take my rockin' chair
If the blues overtakes me, gonna rock away from here

Trouble in mind, I'm blue, but I won't be blue alway
'Cause the sun's gonna shine in my back door someday

SOLO

All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: August 24, 2016, 01:40:45 PM by Johnm »

Offline banjochris

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Re: Roscoe Holcomb Lyrics
« Reply #2 on: August 24, 2016, 03:21:30 PM »
For his version of "Trouble In Mind", Roscoe sounds as though he was playing his banjo out of open D tuning, f#DF#AD.  Please let me know if I have this wrong, you banjo players out there.

Yep, that's the right tuning, John!
Chris

Offline frailer24

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Re: Roscoe Holcomb Lyrics
« Reply #3 on: August 25, 2016, 12:06:39 AM »
Oddly enough, "Trouble In Mind" was the first Roscoe piece I learned, due to its being in D tuning.
That's all she wrote Mabel!

Offline Johnm

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Re: Roscoe Holcomb Lyrics
« Reply #4 on: October 23, 2017, 02:29:46 PM »
Hi all,
I found this version of Roscoe Holcomb singing "In The Pines" today, backing himself out of E position in standard tuning.  That held note on the repetition of the word "pines" is amazing, even by Roscoe's standards.  I'm not at all sure I have the tail end of the second line of the last verse correct and would very much appreciate correction/corroboration  Here is the track:



It's in the pine, in the pines, where the sun, it never shine
't's, and I shivered when the cold wind blow

GUITAR INTERLUDE

Little girl, little girl, don't lie to me
Sayin', "Honey, where'd you stay last night?"

"I stayed in the pine, where the sun don't never shine."
Sayin', "I shivered when the cold wind blow."

GUITAR INTERLUDE

Look up, look down that lonesome road
Hang down your little head and cry

It's, if you love me as I do you,
Would you go with me or die

GUITAR INTERLUDE

Edited 10/23 to pick up correction from TenBrook

All best,
Johnm

« Last Edit: October 23, 2017, 04:39:45 PM by Johnm »

Offline TenBrook

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Re: Roscoe Holcomb Lyrics
« Reply #5 on: October 23, 2017, 03:24:15 PM »
John,
I'm hearing that last line as "Would you go with me or die."

Lew

Offline Johnm

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Re: Roscoe Holcomb Lyrics
« Reply #6 on: October 23, 2017, 04:38:06 PM »
Thanks very much for the help, Lew.  Re-listening, I heard the line exactly as you have it.  I will make the change.  Thanks!
All best,
John

Offline Johnm

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Re: Roscoe Holcomb Lyrics
« Reply #7 on: June 21, 2020, 04:24:56 PM »
Hi all,
We already have Dock Boggs and Clarence Ashley's versions of "Omie Wise" transcribed, and when I heard Roscoe Holcomb's version on youtube recently I thought I would add it.  His banjo has such an eerie, lonesome sound on this rendition, and I think it's partly because he has his fifth string, the drone string, tuned to the II note of the key he was playing in--I don't think I've ever heard that done before.  Does anyone know if he used this tuning for other songs he played?  In other versions of this song I've heard, the singers have Omie meeting John Lewis at Adams's Spring, whereas Roscoe sounds like he has her meeting him at the head of Adams's Branch (which means close to the same thing).  Here is Roscoe Holcomb's version of "Omie Wise":



It's tell me no stories, tell me no lie
It's tell me the story of little Omie Wise

I'll tell you no story, and I'll tell you no lie
It's how she was deluded by John Lewis's lie

She promised to meet him in the head of Adams's Branch
Some money he would bring her and other fine things

She flew like an eagle, to the head of Adam's Branch
No money did he bring her nor other fine things

"No money, no money, my sweetheart.", said he.
"It's hop up behind me and married we will be."

She hopped up behind him and away they did go
Down by the river where the deep water flow

"John Lewis, John Lewis, I'm 'fraid of your way.
I'm 'fraid that you will lead my poor body astray."

He beat her, he banged her, he drove her 'round and 'round
He threw her in the river, where he knew she would drown

Two boys was a-fishing all on one Sunday morn
They found little Omie's body down by the old mill pond

They threw their net around her, they carried her to the bank
They drew her from the water and laid her on a plank

So they sent for John Lewis to come to the place
They put her up before him, that he knew her face

"My name is John Lewis, my name it is not denied.
I murdered my own true lovier [sic], and her name was Omie Wise."

"You can beat me, you can bang me, for I'm the very one.
I drownded my own true lovier [sic] down by that old mill pond."

All best,
Johnm








« Last Edit: June 21, 2020, 06:16:43 PM by Johnm »

Offline banjochris

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Re: Roscoe Holcomb Lyrics
« Reply #8 on: June 22, 2020, 09:11:33 AM »
I've only heard him play something like this accompaniment for "Omie Wise," but it's the same tuning for "Little Birdie," (eCGAD) just played out of D instead of C. Left-hand wise it's pretty much the same as Dock Boggs' pieces in f#CGAD, except for really outlining the VII chord; I don't think Dock ever played the E on the first string in any of his pieces in that tuning.
Chris

Offline Johnm

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Re: Roscoe Holcomb Lyrics
« Reply #9 on: June 23, 2020, 07:48:52 AM »
Thanks for that information, Chris.  For some reason I missed your post when you first put it up.  I found this tuning, apart from identifying where the fifth string sat in it, a lot harder to hear and suss out than Dock Bogg's playing, for some reason.  Maybe it's just because I've listened to Dock's music more.  Boy, I love the sound of that II note drone.  I sure wasn't hearing it as being just a full step above the first string, though.  I'll have to fool around with it.  Thanks!
All best,
Johnm

Offline banjochris

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Re: Roscoe Holcomb Lyrics
« Reply #10 on: June 23, 2020, 09:32:32 AM »
Thanks for that information, Chris.  For some reason I missed your post when you first put it up.  I found this tuning, apart from identifying where the fifth string sat in it, a lot harder to hear and suss out than Dock Bogg's playing, for some reason.  Maybe it's just because I've listened to Dock's music more.  Boy, I love the sound of that II note drone.  I sure wasn't hearing it as being just a full step above the first string, though.  I'll have to fool around with it.  Thanks!
All best,
Johnm


I take no special credit for figuring out the tuning it was in the liner notes of the original album! It sure sounds different than Dock's playing despite coming from a somewhat similar place.
Chris

 


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