An Embarrassment of Riches

11 May 2010

What region of the country has the hottest bluegrass scene?  Greater Boston makes its case for the crown of bluegrass capital this week.  Let’s see… This Thursday, do you go to the “Banjo Extravaganza” at the National Heritage Museum in Lexington, or do you catch the Della Mae and Sarah Jarosz double bill at Club Passim in Cambridge?  If you opt for banjos, you can still catch Della Mae next Tuesday (May 18th) at the great Cantab Lounge in Cambridge, taking in the weekly jam there while you’re at it, or you can listen to them as you cruise Boston Harbor on the “Bluegrass Cruise” (May 15th— click here for a flyer with details). Choose this option and you’ll also be doing a good deed, as the cruise is a fundraiser for the Traditional Music Foundation.

Both Della Mae fiddler Kimber Ludiker and guitarist Courtney Hartman are due to be on that cruise, so in their honor, Cousin Curly offers another tune from this year’s Joe Val Bluegrass Festival, featuring Joe Walsh on mandolin, Hartman on guitar and Ludiker on fiddle…

I particularly like the way the players trade fragmentary “micro-solos” in the last run-through of the tune.  This lets them both stretch the boundaries of the melody and pull everything together.

This tune, “Billy in the Lowground” is one of the relatively few fiddle tunes in plain ol’ C.  I was certain the tune had its origins in the British Isles during the Eighty Years War (“Lowlands” referring to the Netherlands, the House of Orange and all that, you see), but cursory research suggests that I’m off base.  I haven’t uncovered a credible explanation for the title, but several sources seem to think the song derives from the Scottish strathspey called “The Braes of Auchtertyre.”  But don’t take my word for it:  read more on the Fiddler’s Companion website.

Yer Pal— Curly

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