When I heard Bluegrass Special for the first time, I was immediately fascinated by this tune. This tune is contained on the CD 16 Gems with 16 early recordings by Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys.
I have learned this tune from the CD and wrote it down for me, and soon we started playing this tune in our bluegrass band, and we still like to play it today. This tune is very good to improvise, because its based on a simple blues harmony scheme in A.
Bill Monroes recording – mainly the guitar accompanyment – remembers me very much to the gypsy swing of Django Reinhardt, I wonder if Bill Monroe listened to this kind of music when he composed Bluegrass Special. Anyway – this tune has much power, and when you play it a little bit harder it almost sounds like a rock and roll tune.
One special thing in Bill Monroes version is the use of an accordion at the end of the tune.
I have found a great live version played by Bill Monroe in the following youtube video:
Bill Monroe Blue Grass Special
A biography of Bill Monroe in German can be found in the German wikipedia: Bill Monroe
A biography in English can be found at ask.com: http://www.ask.com/music/artist/Monroe/663
I have found another video of this tune that is interesting. Frank Wakefield and some friends play this tune spontaneously and with much energy and interesting improvisations. This was recorded at a mandolin camp, where Frank Wakefield was teaching.
Frank Wakefield ran into some old friends who were playing at Bill Monroe’s childhood home in Rosine, Kentucky and decided to join them. Frank, Campbell Mercer and Skip Gorman on mandolin, Wayne Lewis and Joe Isaacs on guitar. Josh Jonston on guitar, Mike Fulkerson on banjo and Mark Hargis on bass. This was part of the weekend activities for the Monroe style mandolin camp put on by The International Bluegrass Music museum in Owensboro, Kentucky. Frank was a teacher at the mandolin camp.
CD Tip: 16 Gems – Bill Monroe (Amazon partnerlink)
Yesterday I accidentally found a video with the tune Ashokan Farewell. I had previously heard this melody, but I have never really dealt with it. But now I want to show this melody to our fiddle player, and I have searched for more videos with this tune.
When you hear Ashokan Farewell you might think that this is a traditional Irish tune, but that is not the case.
Jay Ungar und Molly Mason
Ashokan Farewell was composed by Jay Ungar in 1982. Jay Ungar and his Wife Molly Mason are playing american roots music since the late 1970s and have organized fiddle and dance camps. Ashokan Fawell was used in a TV Series about the American Civil War and is a tune that is obviously known by many Americans. The music for this TV series has even won a Grammy award, and Ashokan Farewell was nominated for an Emmy.
This information and more can be found on the homepage of Jay Ungar and Molly Mason jayandmolly.com : Ashokan Farewell FAQ
Sheet music of this tune can be found at thesession.org: Ashokan Farewell – the session
Now let’s start with the videos. As this blog is mainly about plucked instruments, I will start with a version played on the guitar:
Ashokan Farewell – guitar
Fiddle tune by Jay Unger that was featured in the Ken Burns documentary about the American Civil War. I found this arrangement for guitar on the internet credited to Denny Straussfogel. Nice work, Denny.
Ashokan Farewell – Slide Guitar
Ashokan Farewell – The Richardsons
An interesting version with four violins played by the Richardsons – the youngest of them is just 12 years old:
Playlist Ashokan Farewell
A playlist with those and many more videos of Ashokan Farewell (including also some versions played on the mandolin). The first video of this playlist is a version by Jay Ungar, where he tells about how he invented this beautiful melody after a summer fiddle camp in Ashokan:
CD tip (amazon partnerlink)
Ashokan Farewell . Beautiful Dreamer (Songs Of Stephen Foster)
– Jay Ungar, Molly Mason, Thomas Hampson, David Alpher