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Concertina Used In Bluegrass


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#1 James

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Posted 14 July 2006 - 10:52 AM

I am new to this forum and have been reading many of the posts. Having played mandolin, fiddle, and uke, I now am interested in learning the concertina. I was curious as to the use of a concertina in a somewhat bluegrass or old time folk setting. Has anyone tried such or know of it? What is usually used or suggested to use, Anglo or English? Your thoughts? Thanks

#2 eskin

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Posted 14 July 2006 - 11:00 AM

While I'm primarily a trad Irish player, my wife plays old time fiddle and mandolin. I've sat in with my anglo at a couple of old time sessions here in San Diego and didn't have any problems. Bluegrass might be problematic, seems like a more rigid genre.

#3 Stephen Chambers

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Posted 14 July 2006 - 11:44 AM

I was curious as to the use of a concertina in a somewhat bluegrass ... setting. Has anyone tried such or know of it?

James,

There's been some discussion here about John Mock playing concertina with the Dixie Chicks.

Otherwise, where's "our Mark"?

#4 bear

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Posted 14 July 2006 - 12:15 PM

James I'm not a player myself (although I do play a harmonica) but I do live near Asheville NC, USA where we have a thing called "Playing On The Green" every year where they section off part of the downtown area in front of the county building, build stages for the clogging dancers, and everybody gathers together and sits around (on the grass, aka the green) playing a verity of different types of music. Mostly Blue Grass and Irish music. This "gathering on the green" last at least a week. There are lots of big time stars that come to The Gathering On The Green every year to play (mostly blue grass).

I have seen lots of concertinas, accordons, harmonicas and Penny Whistles playing along with some fantastic blue grass bands. And they all sound really good. (while most do anyway.......LOL).

#5 Dan Worrall

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Posted 14 July 2006 - 12:59 PM

I am new to this forum and have been reading many of the posts. Having played mandolin, fiddle, and uke, I now am interested in learning the concertina. I was curious as to the use of a concertina in a somewhat bluegrass or old time folk setting. Has anyone tried such or know of it? What is usually used or suggested to use, Anglo or English? Your thoughts? Thanks


Bertram Levy has played Old Time string band music on anglo, and has some thoughts and instructions on a few old time tunes in his anglo tutor. He played a few anglo tracks on his recent CD with Alan Jabbour, The Henry Reed Reunion.
Jody Kruskal is just about to release an OT CD featuring anglo on all tracks, along with others on stringed instruments (banjo, fiddle, etc). Keep watching the Forum, I'm sure it will surface soon.

The anglo has a lot going for it for OT, because the back-rhythm is more easily done on an instrument with lots of bellows direction changes. That peculiar rhythm is nearly everything with OT music. Jody uses a GD anglo and recommends it highly for this purpose. Bertram once suggested that whatever concertina, keep it soft so as not to overpower the strings...good advice.

There are few to no historical references to anglo use in OT music, and only a few intrepid modern experimenters, as mentioned in the thread above. 130 years ago, however, the anglo was not unheard of in minstrel music, which was an immediate precurser to OT.

I don't know about using anglo with bluegrass, and agree with whoever above said that bluegrass was a bit more rigid. Not to say someone shouldn't try it, just not something I would try.

#6 Peter Stephenson

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Posted 14 July 2006 - 02:23 PM

I would say the concertina suited old timey stuff better than bluegrass.
I've been accused of spoiling the 'sound' of a bluegrass session before now as 'only strings give bluegrass its distinctive sound', which don't bother me none. But if folk are happy to let you play then play-away.
The few ot players I know arn't so fashed,, and are glad of the odd train whistle at times.

#7 Bob Tedrow

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Posted 14 July 2006 - 02:40 PM

I have a friend who plays concertina in his bluegrass band here in Alabama. He gets a lot of requests for it as a matter of fact.

I have played with lots of BG folks who stumble into my shop. I offer up some of the crossover tunes, St Annes Reel, Paddy on the turnpike, Old Molly Hare (Fairy Dance) McCloud's Reel (Did you ever see the Devil)

Lot's of BG instrumentals are fiddle tunes, if you can cover the basic Irish session repertiore, you can have some fun with the BG/OT crowd.

Bob

#8 Mark Evans

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Posted 14 July 2006 - 03:00 PM

Lots of interesting comments. You'll run into the rusty crusty crowd who want all bluegrass to reflect the instrumentation Bill Monroe's Bluegrass Boys achieved in 1947 with Flatt and Scruggs. They fail to realize that Bill took whatever came along. For a time in the early 50's he had a PA in the band (one of his many girlfriends).

I never gave folks a choice when I picked up the EC. Fiddle tunes came up or most songs I sing, it comes out to play. Had a few got there shorts in a wad and they leave the room if it don't suit them.

Soon enough they'll be some cuts of Obi's Boy's out and about (my bluegrass band). It works for us and most of the folks who come to hear us. BTW, old timers can get their shorts in a wad as well. Just try to pull a resonator banjo out of it's case and see what happens :P .

On reflection: I didn't mean to seem harsh about not giving someone a choice. When I go to a bluegrass jam, most folks around here know what I'm about...makin' music with both my instruments. Over the years I've only had one verbal exchange at a very small jam that is held at John Stone's Inn every other Wednesday: a very good banjo player I know by reputation had joined the circle and after several tunes and songs grinned saying, " I like the way you play that box, but twenty years ago I would have thrown you out of the circle on your a**". I grinned and said, twenty years ago I'd most likely respond by crackin' you upside yer knoggin' with that beer bottle yer suckin' on. We went back to playin' tunes and had a very interesting evening.

Edited by Mark Evans, 14 July 2006 - 10:04 PM.


#9 Rhomylly

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Posted 16 July 2006 - 08:18 PM

Some sessions will be "stringed instruments only." Others are more open to just about any instrument that is carried through the door.

I play some bluegrass on my anglo at the local session, "Old Joe Clark," "Arkansas Traveler". And, as has been mentioned before, there are a lot of crossover tunes, to which I would add "Soldier's Joy" and "Whiskey Before Breakfast."

The concertina contingent at the Old Time Music and Dulcimer Festival in Palestine, TX has been very well-received. This year we worked up "Magnolia Waltz" and a shape-note hymn to present to our fellow attendees. Both went well.

I say, go for it!

#10 Mark Evans

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Posted 17 July 2006 - 05:35 AM

Some sessions will be "stringed instruments only." Others are more open to just about any instrument that is carried through the door.


Quite right you are. I've never darkened the door of one of those. This is a new era in today's Bluegrass world and battle lines amongst some are clearly marked. It goes against the bluegrass tradition I grew up with.

Also the appearence of slow jams. It has further polorized differences. The tradition in bluegrass used to be, accept all regardless experience, " We'll, help you get through it young feller. Three chords in four keys, an' you got it licked". New person in the room calls the next tune. The old hands will handle it, just tell us which one an' join in.

Situations like that have become rare. :(

Edited by Mark Evans, 17 July 2006 - 05:36 AM.


#11 bear

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Posted 17 July 2006 - 01:13 PM

The tradition in bluegrass used to be, accept all regardless experience, " We'll, help you get through it young feller. Three chords in four keys, an' you got it licked". New person in the room calls the next tune. The old hands will handle it, just tell us which one an' join in.

Situations like that have become rare. :(


Heck here in the mountains around Asheville NC we have get togethers all the time. We gather at different homes roast a hog or grill a few chickens and do a whole lot of picking and grinnin. It never did matter how good a musician you was or what instrument you played the rest would carry you through somehow. Thats one of the ways our young'uns learn how to be a good musician. And its still that way today. If you dont believe me y'all need to come up here in the mountains and see for yourself. BTW if you do come and join in bring along an instrument so you can join in. If not at least bring a big ole smile. If you cannot do some playing at least you can do a lot of grinnin like I do............LOL

#12 Mark Evans

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Posted 17 July 2006 - 01:52 PM

Heck here in the mountains around Asheville NC we have get togethers all the time. We gather at different homes roast a hog or grill a few chickens and do a whole lot of picking and grinnin. It never did matter how good a musician you was or what instrument you played the rest would carry you through somehow. Thats one of the ways our young'uns learn how to be a good musician. And its still that way today.


Yup! I've been to a few pig pickin's in your area and you have spoken the truth, book and verse :P .
It is where I learned to play the banjo and every time I take it out of the case I long for that part of the world and the communion I shared.

#13 bear

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Posted 17 July 2006 - 03:25 PM

Well Mr. Evans sir y'all more then welcome to come on back and eat some greasy ole pork, pintos, greenbeans seasoned with some fatback, cornbread, and maybe a poke salad. Bring a long that banjo or your concertina, fiddle, spoons or anything that makes music and we'll all do a bunch of grinnin :D

#14 Dirge

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Posted 17 July 2006 - 05:56 PM

Very American, all this. (just for information, honestly}

#15 bear

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Posted 18 July 2006 - 02:24 PM

Dirge I'm sorry if us Americans taking about other stuff bothers you my friend. But your right, this is a Concertina forum and I guess we need not be talking about roasting a hog. Sorry..............

#16 Dirge

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Posted 18 July 2006 - 04:49 PM

No no I honestly don't mind at all and now wish I hadn't interrupted the flow. You get on and enjoy yourselves. All good stuff. Roast away! Pass the jug!

#17 Old Blevins

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Posted 26 September 2008 - 01:58 PM

I am a new member, and I know this is a very old post, but I ran across it recently doing a Google search on "Bluegrass Concertina". There ain't much else out there on the subject. Maybe this post will resurrect the topic.

As you probably know, the concertina is seldom if every used in professional bluegrass music. I have over 2,500 bluegrass and old-time country songs (new and old) in my music collection, and there is not a concertina on one of them. I believe that traditional bluegrass music has an unhealthy (and not historically justifiable) bias towards stringed instruments. After all, the concertina predates not only bluegrass music, but also country music, and recorded music by many years. It stands to reason that the old traditional songs and tunes that are the staple of bluegrass music were played a lot on the concertina in the late 1800's and early 1900's.

It's a shame, because Bluegrass (as all folk music) sounds great played on the concertina. I have taken on the mission to try to promote and encourage the use of the concertina in bluegrass music. So I recently recorded a homemade album, "Squeezin' Out the Grass", which I believe to be the first bluegrass concertina album in history. It was recorded using only a laptop computer and a single microphone. It is mostly old-time traditional songs that have been recorded bluegrass style by various artists over the years. I call myself "Master of the Bluegrass Concertina", which is tongue-in-cheek. I am not that good, but there are no well known bluegrass concertina players, so I jokingly claimed the title by default.

It features the Anglo Chromatic Concertina as the primary instrument, if not the only instrument, on every song. I felt I had to include vocals and other things to keep the album interesting. I tried to mix it up a lot. Slow tunes, fast tunes, secular songs, gospel songs, some other instruments and surprises thrown in occasionally, etc.

I'm not a great musician (I guess I would be considered intermediate level on the concertina) and even less of a singer. So it is strictly an amateur job both talent and production-wise, but it turned out better than most people (including myself) anticipated. I forced my wife, kids, and brother to all make guest appearanes. Most importantly, I had a hoot making it, and I am having fun distributing it and getting people's reaction. The majority of my friends and co-works like it and have found it interesting and entertaining. Ironically, people who aren't bluegrass fans and aren't familiar with the songs seem to like it best. As a result, various friends and acquaintances want to record a song with me "Bluegrass Concertina" style, so there are plans for various sessions and additional recordings in the future.

If anyone is interested in downloading a copy of this album, it is at the link below. The first file contains good images of the album cover front and back. The second contains the music. As far as the music goes, it is all in one compressed file, so it is all or nothing. The 13 songs are in MP3 format and the files are organized in standard digital music format with all the tags, etc.

Squeezin' Out the Grass

This is the first time I have made it available to the general public in any way. Any questions or feedback, let me know. It is what it is, and if nothing else, I think it is unique.



I am new to this forum and have been reading many of the posts. Having played mandolin, fiddle, and uke, I now am interested in learning the concertina. I was curious as to the use of a concertina in a somewhat bluegrass or old time folk setting. Has anyone tried such or know of it? What is usually used or suggested to use, Anglo or English? Your thoughts? Thanks



#18 michael sam wild

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Posted 26 September 2008 - 02:17 PM

Dan Worrall's thread on the history of the concertina is interesting on this matter.

I am always puzzled by the way that the fiddle stayed popular in the States whereas the Anglo and Melodeon vanished ( but not in Cajun and Zydeco). Maybe the old C/G German models couldn't keep up with the keys needed or the jazz boom

The same seems to have happened in the UK in the 1920s but the fiddle also fizzled and I don't know why that should be. Folk tunes were not popular again in the UK on radio etc until the Square Dance boom of the 1950s . Then we rediscovered and reinvented it all and went back to the roots we could dig up.
I do find if I try to join in with Bluegrass or old Timey musicians I get some funny looks and even snide comments although with good friends we achieve some great sessions and the listeners love it, it's the same with Beatles and Stones numbers , the format seems to determine what the punter expects!. If trad musicians were as blinkered we'd never have had Jazz, Blues , Rock or ITM etc etc...... Stay loose

Mike




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