Skip to main content

The Year of Ward Jarvis: Tomahawk

My latest Ward Jarvis tune is "Tomahawk." Jarvis learned this tune from Tommy Jackson, either on record or radio, according to the field recordings David Brose made in the 1970s. Jackson was a prominent Nashville session fiddler during the 1950s.

The tune appears on Jackson's "Square Dance Tonight" album, released in 1957. Jarvis can be heard playing it on the Field Recorders' Collective album (FRC402), from the recordings of Jeff Goehring. Brose's recording of Jarvis can be heard on the Slippery-Hill website.

Jarvis plays "Tomahawk" in AEAE tuning and is credited for making the tune old-time. There's another variant usually attributed to Missouri fiddler Bob Holt, available on the 1998 Rounder release "Got a Little Home to Go To."

I took my first crack at "Tomahawk" on June 18. Below is my first attempted recording of the tune, which is only twice through because of a major flub in the third repeat of the A part. (Here's a link in case the embedded player doesn't work.) I'm pretty happy with the progress so far. I'll continue to refine my playing as I start working toward my next tune.

"Tomahawk" is the third tune of my Year of Ward Jarvis project. The previous two were "Head of the Creek" and "Icy Mountain." Next, I'll be moving on from AEAE tunes, to either "Three Forks of Reedy," "Pretty Little Indian" or "Cattle in the Cane," which I believe are all in standard GDAE tuning.

Considering this is supposed to be a banjo blog, I should mention that I've been transferring these tunes to the ol' five-string. Once of these days maybe I'll even provide recordings of my banjo interpretations. But that will have to wait until later.

As always, I appreciate any input on my playing. Thanks for reading and listening.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Getting Blitzed with Tom Collins

A little more than a year ago, Salem, Massachusetts-based banjo player and teacher Tom Collins embarked on a yearlong project he called Banjo Blitz. The weekly YouTube series provided short banjo lessons on technique. Each video is about five minutes long, give or take, and presents a short pattern — or “ostinato” — designed to teach and improve a specific aspect of banjo playing.

The mission was to get the audience “to practice clawhammer in discrete chunks every day without the burden of trying to memorize tunes,” Collins says. He wanted to build skills rather than repertoire.

“Let’s take the tune off the table,” says Collins, who has been teaching banjo for 11 years. “Let’s focus on a simple, mantra-like ostinato that can train your body how to execute a technique properly, while training your ears how to hear it properly. Let’s also make it so that you can do this every day without it sucking every spare minute from your life. The big dirty secret about learning how to play an ins…

Clawhammer Picks and You: A Review

Clawhammer picks are a useful tool for increasing volume or to overcome fingernail challenges, such as broken, too short or weak nails. There are all sorts of commercial and homemade solutions available for banjo players, but it can be difficult to decide which options to choose. Thankfully, I've already done some of the work for you.
Just to be clear, I prefer my natural fingernail for frailing. However, there was a time when I experimented with regularly using a pick, and there are instances now where I find that a pick is necessary. Today, I'll take you through the five options I've tried. These are all available online at prices ranging from about $1 to $13.

Reversed/Reshaped Dunlop Pick ($0.75)
This was the most common suggestion before other companies started addressing the gap in the clawhammer pick market. Take a bluegrass pick, flatten it out and wear it backwards. The problem is that it's hard to get the fit right. While Dunlop picks are cheap and readily avai…

Erynn Marshall, Mark Olitsky, Doug Unger: An Old-Time Smorgasbord in Peninsula, Ohio, for Music on the Porches, Sept. 23

Old-time music and banjo fans alike would do well to aim their GPS units toward Peninsula, Ohio, the historic village nestled in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park between Cleveland and Akron. This Saturday is Music on the Porches, which features a number of musical acts playing all around town, starting at 11 a.m. 
The showcase event is Saturday night at the G.A.R. Hall, an evening concert that will feature fiddler Erynn Marshall and multi-instrumentalist Carl Jones, the married old-time duo based in Galax, Virginia; followed by Sean Watkins, formerly of the progressive bluegrass band Nickel Creek; and finally headliner Tim O'Brien, who has recorded with everyone from Steve Martin to Dirk Powell, including the excellent "Songs From the Mountain" album with Powell and John Herrmann (one of my all-time favorites). Doors open at 6:30 p.m., with Marshall and Jones set to start at 7 p.m. Tickets are available online via Eventbrite
But wait, that's not all! 
Marshall wi…