The case of Blackberry Blossum

From Wikiversity
Jump to navigation Jump to search

This resource is authorized to include instructional ("how-to") information not available on Wikipedia. Please help to expand that section below.

The case of Blackberry Blossum

Educational level: this is a research resource.

The fiddle tune "Blackberry Blossom", a fiddle tune in the key of G Major, [1] is classified as a "breakdown" and is popular in old time, bluegrass [2]and Celtic [3]traditional circles. It is considered one of the best known fiddle tune of the twentieth century.

History[edit | edit source]

The tune [4] has been added to many tune books - as many as 277, according to The Session, an online resource for traditional musicians. [5] The tune became popular as a tune recorded by "Fiddlin'" Arthur Smith and that version, according to Alan Jabbour, supplanted an earlier tune played by Sanford Kelly from Morgan County,[6] which is now represented by the tune "Yew Piney Mountain". [7] [8] It is also called Garfield’s Blackberry Blossom, perhaps to distinguish it from the earlier version.[9] Contradicting Jabbour, who clearly distinguishes the earlier version, is the account of Andrew Kuntz to the effect that "Betty Vornbrock and others have noted a similarity between 'Garfield’s Blackberry Blossom' and the West Virginia tune 'Yew Piney Mountain', a variant...also played by Kentucky fiddlers J.P. Fraley and and Santford Kelly". [10]

Culture: use in different genres[edit | edit source]

Although the tune is closely associated with the old time/ bluegrass traditions of the United States,[11] it enjoys the distinction of often being frequently played by traditional Irish musicians.[12]

In Irish music[edit | edit source]

This is a partial list of covers by Irish musicians and bands.

  • An Fhidil, Sraith 2 by Sean Keane, Kevin Burke, Paddy Glackin And Seamus Creagh
  • Ireland's Best Session Tunes CD 1 by Waltons Recording
  • Irish Dances by Various Artists
  • Top Of Coom by Conal Ó'Gráda
  • Traditional Irish Dance Music by All Star Ceilidhe Band
  • Traditional Irish Dance Music: All Star Ceili Band by Joe Derrane
  • Traditional Irish Music by William Sullivan
  • Traditional Irish Tunes Played On The Tin Whistle (1/2) by Geraldine Cotter
  • Traditional Music Of Ireland by Various Artists


In Bluegrass[edit | edit source]

According to Devon Wells, Blackberry Blossom, as a banjo tune, was brought to the public's attention as one of the earliest arrangements of Bill Keith. [14] Wells, a bluegrass teacher, asserts that the tune is a standard in the bluegrass banjo repertoire.[15] Some of the older recordings archived at the Digital Library of Appalachia include:

  • Davenport, Clyde
    • Fiddle tune played by Clyde Davenport at the Berea College Celebration of Traditional Music on 11-03-84
  • Rawlings, Carlton
    • Fiddle tune played by Carlton Rawlings and recorded by John Harrod in Bath County, Kentucky [1970s].
  • Higgins, Charlie
    • Smithsonian FOlkways [1]

Structure[edit | edit source]

Like most traditional fiddle tunes, Blackberry Blossom has an A part and a B part; the former is in the key of G Major but the latter switches explicitly to the key of E minor. E minor is the relative minor of the key of G Major - it uses the same sharps and flats but its' modal center is E rather than G. This provides the tune with an unusual mood shift which adds complexity. [16] According to Anthony, "The note played on the 1st & 3rd beat of the first 2 measures are the first 4 notes of the descending scale of G. Each of these notes is the beginning of a 3-note run, returning to to this base note, before moving on to the next note in the G scale. "[17]

Videographic documentation (various instrumentation)[edit | edit source]

Fiddle and Guitar [18]

Fiddle Guitar and Banjo [19]

Mandolin [Mark O'Connor)[20]

Fiddle & percussion- interpretive - (Carrie Rodriguez) [21]

Twin fiddlin' [22]

Electric violin/ rock band [2]

Collection of video links at World News website

Instructional resources[edit | edit source]

Played slow.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Website of Sean Ray|
  2. ref name=Anthony|Building a Traditional Tune Repertoire|Wendy Anthony |
  3. The Sessions
  4. ref name=DLA-Dickerson|played by Emma Lee Dickerson and| recorded by= Barbara Kunkle |date recorded=2-9-74|Greenup County, Kentucky|performer=Dickerson, Emma Lee|Place=Greenup County, Kentucky|Original Format=Reel-To-Reel Audio Tape|Holding Library|Berea College |
  5. ref name=The Session|Please expand this reference|
  6. Note: As an E minor tune. He ends the tune "that's the way that God made peace".|
  7. ref name=Jabbour BBB Transcript|cited=Wikiversity Ethnography of Fiddle|Fiddle tune played by Alan Jabbour at Berea College on 5-28-08, while participating in Berea's Appalachian Music Fellowship Program.c; Jabbour, Alan; Blackberry Blossom;
  8. Blackberry Blossom|Lecture and performance by Alan Jabbour|Madison County, Kentucky|Audio Compact Disc|On web Digital Library of Appallachia| Archives, Hutchins Library, Department of Special Collections & Archives.
  9. ref name=Kuntz|The Fiddler’s Companion|Andrew Kuntz|1996[?]|Citing Jean Thomas's Ballad Makin' in the Mountains of Kentucky|[2]
  10. Kuntz
  11. Note: The Digital Library of Appallachia has recordings primarily from Kentucky.
  12. The Sessions
  13. The Sessions
  14. ref name=Wells|Saturday, April 2, 2011| Exploring Blackberry Blossom|Website of Devon Wells|Devon's Banjo Homepage|
  15. Wells
  16. Anthony
  17. Anthony
  18. Doc and the Lady (Fiddle and Flatpick Guitar)Operation Smile ocncert|instumentation=(fiddle and guitar)|
  19. Inland Northwest Bluegrass Association in Spokane Washington. Every month the INBA has what they call a Bluegrass Thang
  20. album =Markology|label= Rounder| Released: 24 Jul 2007| url=|
  21. Carrie Rodriguez performing live at the Rosendale Cafe in Rosendale, NY on January 3, 2008. Playing with Carrie are her band members Hans Holzen and Javier Vercher.|

Category:Research projects