Compendium of Fiddle Styles/Blues fiddle

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Portland Blues Festival 2004

Blues violin or fiddle originated as a variety of American fiddle and is the expressive interpretive performance of a relatively standardized repertoire of music from the various blues genres (Piedmont, Delta, blues-rock, country blues) on a violin which may have been outfitted with a flattened bridge, an electric pickup, and different strings. Like all blues music it is based on expressive performance and human emotion. The blues is rooted in the African music of the American slaves who brought their music them from Africa. Many played the banjo but music quickly spread to the fiddle and the blues became a mix of western and African music. [1] Violin, Sing The Blues For Me won Best Historic Blues Album of 2000, and according to its liner notes "violin played a significant role in the early history of recorded blues, with its crying vibratos and sliding notes creating a dramatic and soulful sound".[2]

Repertoire[edit | edit source]

Country dances, rags, stomps, and folk songs. [3] Blues tunes typically consist of the famed twelve bar blues or a related blues progression, repeated. The chords used tend to be seventh chords of I, IV and V (root, subdominant and dominant).

Technique[edit | edit source]

Blues fiddle or blues violin utilizes the pentatonic (five-note) blues scale with the supplemental “blue notes.” An essential quality of blues improvisation on any instrument is the ability to transpose licks from one key to another.[4]

Vibrato[edit | edit source]

In blues, vibrato is not used as a routine method of making notes sound pretty. It is used for special effect, in some cases with exaggerated wide vibrato or in conjunction with slides and other techniques.

Proponents[edit | edit source]

  • Lonnie Johnson
  • Henry Sims "raw Delta blues"
  • The Memphis Jug Band
  • Nigel MacLean (Australia)
  • Howard Armstrong, also known as “Louie Bluie,” whose career in music spanned seven decades.

Gatemouth[edit | edit source]

Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown (April 18, 1924 — September 10, 2005[5]) was an American musician from Louisiana and Texas. He is best known for his work as a blues musician, but embraced other styles of music, having "spent his career fighting purism by synthesizing old blues, country, jazz, Cajun music and R&B styles"[6]

He was an acclaimed multi-instrumentalist, who played an array of musical instruments such as guitar, fiddle, mandolin, viola as well as harmonica and drums. He won a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album in 1982 for his album, Alright Again![7] He is regarded as one of the most influential exponents of blues fiddle and has had enormous influence in American fiddle circles.[8]

Papa John[edit | edit source]

Papa John Creach (John Henry Creach, 1917-1994) payed for Jefferson Airplane (1970–1975), Hot Tuna, Jefferson Starship, Jefferson Starship - The Next Generation, the San Francisco All-Stars (1979–1984), The Dinosaurs (1982–1989), and Steve Taylor.

Creach began playing violin in Chicago bars when the family moved there in 1935, and eventually joined a local cabaret band, the Chocolate Music Bars. Moving to L.A. in 1945, he played in the Chi Chi Club, spent time working on an ocean liner, appeared in "a couple of pictures", and performed as a duo with Nina Russell.

In 1992, he became one of the original members of Jefferson Starship - The Next Generation.

Pedagogy[edit | edit source]

Darol Anger is a polished eclectic violinist and fiddle player whose depth of knowledge includes blues to a degree sufficient to win a distribution contract for pedagogic material in the field, however he is not a blues specialist. His promotional material nevertheless emphasizes the utility of his "deep knowledge of the violin... will help bring your fiddle playing to a whole new level. Using a “call and response” interactive teaching method, you’ll trade licks with Darol as you learn tunes, riffs and styles from the Mississippi Delta to blues-inflected bluegrass, bebop, jazz and even rock and roll." All of these styles are blended in a teaching aid entitled "Blues on the fiddle." [9]

The fiddle is a perfect vehicle for the blues, with its slides and expressive, vocal-like intonation. Anger draws on riffs from Sonny Rollins’ riff blues Sonny Moon for Two. Another source for the Anger method is Cool Blues by Charlie Parker, is "another great riff blues". “He rounds out this perhaps formidable assignment with "shorter but more complex licks with slides, triplets and other important stylistic moves".

Blues fiddle discography[edit | edit source]

Violin, Sing The Blues For Me


African-American Fiddlers 1926-1949 Old Hat CD-1002

Reviewed by Ed Ward [10]

Outgrowths from blues[edit | edit source]

Blues grew out of the experience of black Americans in and emerging from the institution of human slavery with all of its tragedy and triumph. There are various historical phases and subgenres which includes the minstrel tradition. Many of these historical antecedents are discussed by Julie Lyonn Lieberman in Blues Fiddle (1985).[11]

Dan Emmett minstrel.jpg

Rock violin or rock fiddle[edit | edit source]

Rock violin is subject to the same influence that rock music embodies; just as the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton and Led Zeppellin drew upon Willie Dixon and the Allman Brothers drew on Elmore James, blues fiddlers such as Clarence Gatemouth Brown and Papa John have interfused with rock.

Red dirt[edit | edit source]

Red Dirt Music gets its name from the color of soil found in Oklahoma. [12] However the music has extensions in Texas particularly Outlaws such as Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson who are associated with that distinctive Texas sound. Waylon was known to pick up a fiddle and Texas blues and blues rock musicians are legendary: Johnny WInter, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and so many more at that can be viewed at the list of Texas blues musicians. Multi-instrumentalist Randy Crouch plays fiddle and identifies as a blues man with a connection in the converging Oklahoma and Texas Red Dirt traditions. [13]

History[edit | edit source]

Oklahoma has been the source of several pop music movements that can be traced not only to a specific city, but a specific location within the city. Those music scenes include Kansas City jazz (attributed to an area of Oklahoma City called Deep Deuce), Western swing (attributed to Cain's Ballroom in Tulsa), and Leon Russell's Tulsa Sound from his Tulsa church-turned-into-studio. Like those three, Red Dirt music grew from a specific place in Stillwater. The place was an old two-story, five-bedroom house called "The Farm" - for two decades the center of what evolved into the Red Dirt scene.[14] The house, located on the outskirts of Stillwater, was the country home of Bob Childers. Eventually Childers left The Farm, but the Red Dirt scene continued to grow and thrive.[15] Childers said, "I found something in Stillwater that I just didn't find anywhere else. And I looked everywhere from Nashville to Austin. I always came back to Stillwater - it's like a fountainhead for folks trying to get their vision."[16]

References[edit | edit source]

  2. name= Violin Sing the Blues
  3. Violin Sing the Blues
  5. [[[:Template:Allmusic]] Allmusic biography]
  6. Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, New York Times
  7. Past Grammy Winners on Official Grammy Award website
  8. Blues Fiddle|Julie Libermnan|Mel Bay?|Citation verification needed
  10. In The Beginning of the Blues, There Was a Violin Reviewed by Ed Ward / The New York Times / October 17, 1999
  11. Blues Fiddle |Julie Lyonn Lieberman|Huiksi Music
  12. Bonvissuto, Danny. Stillwater Music Has Red Dirt Roots, Bright Future. Stillwater, Oklahoma on Retrieved January 8, 2010.
  13. Elswick, Mark. Texas Red Dirt with Spur 503. Texas Music Times. Retrieved Aug. 6, 2008.
  14. Wooley, John. The Red Dirt Rangers: The Band. Red Dirt Rangers website. Retrieved Aug. 8, 2008.
  15. News 9 website. Red Dirt breeds music. May 16, 2008. Retrieved Aug. 8, 2008.
  16. Mack, Joe. A final farewell to the rainbow rocker. The Current, May 2008, p. 24.

Additional resources[edit | edit source]

b Glenn, Eddie.Fiddlin' Folk. Talequah Daily Press, June 25, 2007. Retrieved January 8, 2009. ^ a b c Wright, Leif M. Greatness wears a big beard: World's best rock fiddle player also inspires. OK July 20, 2007. Retrieved January 8, 2009. ^ Tryggestad, Erik and Colberg, Chris. Weekend Look: In town and around. The Oklahoman, November 3, 2006. Retrieved January 8, 2009. ^ a b c An Interview with Randy Crouch. Formerly published on the now defunct Texas Troubadours website. September 5, 2007. Retrieved January 12, 2009. ^ a b Critter, Chris B. The 'green' beginnings of red dirt. The Current, December, 2008, p. 68-9. Retrieved January 9, 2009. ^ Critter, Chris B. The farm that grew the red dirt. The Current, October, 2008, p. 14-5. Retrieved January 9, 2009. ^ Conner, Thomas. Guthrie folk festival "matures". Tulsa World, July 15, 2002. Retrieved January 9, 2009. ^ Woody Guthrie Folk Festival website. Sneak Preview of 2007 Woody Guthrie Folk Festival Entertainers. Retrieved January 8, 2009. ^ Randy Crouch. Retrieved January 12, 2009.

External links[edit | edit source]