From the album Two To Get Ready
Mark Clavey: guitar
Mary Hanover: hammered dulcimer
Rachel Gaither-Vaughan: fiddle
This a themed set – “Rakish Paddy”, a perennial favorite among reels, in D-Mixolydian playing as an counter-modal break (think of it as a palate-cleanser) between four well-known American reels in D-major. Despite the title, many musicians think “Rakish Paddy” is of Scottish descent – not the least of which being Uilleann piper and Irish music collector Breandán Breathnach, and Scottish instrumental prodigy Robin Williamson. O’Neill comments that the tune appeared as “Caper Fey” (an Anglicization of “Cabar Féidh”, ‘Deer’s Antlers’) in Robert Bremner’s “Second Collection of Scots Reels or Country Dances” in 1768. The set kicks off with a pass through “Whisky Before Breakfast”. There seems to be a dispute of mild proportion as to the origins of the tune – with many (Canadians) of the opinion that it is of Canadian origin while many others (Americans) assert its American heritage. Many point to its popularization by Manitoba Métis fiddler Andy de Jarlis. Many others point to its widespread presence in old-timey and bluegrass sessions throughout the US, 78-rpm recordings by Grandpa Jones and the like, &c. Will we ever know? Probably not. For the sake of these notes, let’s just concede it’s an American tune. After one pass through it, we drop into one pass through “Rakish Paddy, and then into “Turkey In the Straw”, an overwhelmingly popular tune in American fiddle tradition. The Scots are all about the tune being an undeniable descendant of “The (Bonny) Black Eagle” and/or “The Rose Tree”. Their grabbiness is enough to make one want to set their hair on fire. The tune has been used for such lofty treatments as “Do Your Ears Hang Low?” (a clearly sanitized version of a British WWI song used to taunt unsuspecting Continental soldiers), and, more recently, “Have You Ever Gone A’Fishin’?” (a song which make one wonder what fish know about hootchie-kootchie dances, how they can dance at all, and why we even teach children songs about hootchie-kootchie anything). After a couple passes through “Turkey In the Straw”, we drop once more into “Rakish Paddy”, and then on to “Arkansas Traveler” – an indisputably-American reel that is almost universally known… one of, if not THE most famous of American fiddle tunes. After a couple passes through it, we divert once more into “Rakish Paddy” for one pass and then into “Bonaparte’s Retreat”. There are a half-dozen tunes called “Bonaparte’s Retreat”… three set-dances, an American old-timey jig, a reel known alternately as “Bonaparte Crossing the Rhine”, and the version we’ve used which has actually been called “Copeland’s Fancy” (after Aaron Copeland’s use of it as the main theme in “Hoedown”). That setting is actually from 1937 field-recording of Kentucky fiddler William H Stepp performing the tune. That recording was transcribed by Ruth Crawford Seegar, and has been used for many revival fiddlers’ versions. Being a half-length tune, we play through it four times, and then fall back into “Rakish Paddy” before bringing it home with one more pass through the AMERICAN fiddle tune “Whiskey Before Breakfast”.