Famous Tunes

Black Mountain Rag

The Black Mountain Rag is one of the most recorded tunes in fiddle repertoire, most famously by Doc & Merle Watson in the 1980s. The Black Mountain is supposedly a particular stretch of mountains in North Carolina. A Rag is a type of music now most common in Jazz that is based on elaborately syncopated rhythm with a steadily accented accompaniment. There is some debate as to whether this tune is Old-Time or Bluegrass, but for my purposes here it works well enough as Old-Time.

Leslie Keith, a fiddle player with the Stanley Brothers, supposedly wrote the tune in the late 1940's. This is not a tune in my repertoire, but you can listen to a recording of it on The Slippery Hill Web Site. Charles Wolfe apparently wrote an article, "The Mystery of Black Mountain Rag," which I read in his collection The Devil's Box: Masters of Southern Fiddling.

Arkansas Traveler

I remember learning this melody in third grade as a simple exercise on the G & D strings. The second part to the song, on E & A, really completes the tune.

Composed by Colonel Sanford C. 'Sandy' Faulkner in the 19th century, Arkansas Traveler has several sets of lyrics dating back beyond Faulkner's composition, though Arkansas' official lyrics were decided upon by the Arkansas State Song Selection Committee in 1949 (which seems overly official for fiddle music).

My recording of Arkansas Traveler is available on the Tunes page.

Over the Waterfall

I knew this first as a Henry Reed tune though it probably came from a traditional Irish Reel. This is also popular as a dulcimer tune for its simple, clean melody. This may also be Reed's most popular tune.

Over the Waterfall is one of the few melodies I imagine as being sad and pensive when played slow but much more upbeat and danceable when played fast. The Library of Congress has Alan Jabbour's more in-depth notes on the tune in their American Memories Collection. It's just a very simple and sweet tune that sounds typically Virginian.

My recording of Over the Waterfall is available on the Tunes page.