Tag Archives: rhythm

Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

We were cooking last night! With four banjos (Ben, Kasey, Dan, Kathy G) and three guitars (Bobby, Diane, and moi), we explored several new singing songs and had a religious experience with rhythm!

One of the new singing songs was When The Roses Bloom Again Beside The River, which Bobby brought to his lesson and I incorporated into the jam. Originally done by the Carter Family (as far as I know), the song was written in 1901. (Google: words by Will D. Cobb, music by Jeff Tweedy. Will D. Cobb also wrote that great song School Days which has that line "reading, and writing, and 'rithmetic".) I tell you all that because I'm constantly ragging Bobby that this song is a "Tin Pan Alley song," written by a songwriter in New York City. I didn't know that songwriter was Will Cobb, but I could tell from the lyrics (cliches such as "rattle of the battle" and "strolling in the gloaming") that it didn't come from the pen of Bill Monroe or Hazel Dickens!  As the great historian Bill Malone wrote when talking about the songs in the country music repertoire, "The country folk didn't care where a song came from, as long as it was a good song." Who knows where A.P. Carter found this song, but it was found, recorded, and thus preserved. ...continue reading

Red HenryThere was some pretty good picking not far from here a few nights ago. It just showed how the right rhythm in a session can make a lot of difference.

Well, a LOT of people showed up for this jam. There must have been 14 or 15 musicians there. Pretty often that means it's hard to get songs and tunes to sound good, since there are so many guitar players (6 or 7, in this case) and so many other musicians (8 or 9, I guess) that it's hard for people to hear each other well. The two most important parts of each beat--- the on-beat and the off-beat--- are just out of focus. But this time, things were different!

As we were getting our instruments out and tuning up to play, who should walk in but Marshall Wilborn--- only one of the best bass players in the world. Marshall is extremely quiet and shy, but he plays world-class bass rhythm. And we happened to be right next to each other in the jam.

Now, being right next to Marshall had at least two advantages: (1) I could always hear where the beat was, with Marshall playing his solid bass notes; and (2) I could chunk my mandolin rhythm exactly between those bass notes and define the off-beat for everybody (the mandolin I was playing, Randy Wood #3, is not a shy mandolin). So the rhythm never got out of focus, with the bass and the mandolin going, BOOM. chunk. BOOM. chunk. BOOM. chunk. BOOM. chunk. Everybody heard the beat, and everybody heard the off-beat. And everybody played together. There's nothing like it.

Next time you're in a jam session, pay attention to the rhythm. It can make the music better for everybody!