Erskine Morris (1913 – 1997)

Erskine Morris (1913 – 1997)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Erskine's Ramble

Here's an untitled G tune off one of the reel-to-reel recordings Erskine made in the 1960s. We've started calling this tune Erskine's Ramble because it has a sort of rickety feel in the low part, sort of like an old car going over some bumpy gravel road.

Hear Erskine's Ramble

This tune has a really captivating rhythm to it in both parts. I love the way the low part has these little pauses between the phrases to create a somewhat jerky feel and then the high part has this smooth, gliding feel with more slurred bowing. Also, note the great droning effect Erskine gets on the bass string in the low part.

This tune reminds me of some of the G tunes from Northeast and Central Kentucky that you can hear on Traditional Fiddle Music of Kentucky Vol 1 and 2 and Along the Ohio's Shores. The low part of Kelly Gilbert's setting of Billy in the Lowground (which is a different melody from the well-loved C tune of the same title) has a similar melody and feel to Erskine's tune. Further, the high part reminds me a little of J.B. Miller's tune, Severn Creek.

This must have made a great tune to step-dance to.
Update: Sept 2010:
I was playing at a friends place in the Eastern Townships and a younger fiddler from the area who plays a lot of Quebecois and Cape Breton style fiddle played this tune. He told me this tune is called the Reel des Eskimos. Although the skeleton was clearly the same tune, his version had more notes of the scale whereas Erskine would create great rhythmic effect using notes repeated consecutively and drone-strings. Isidore Soucy recorded a rather crooked version of this tune you can hear here(from Collections Canada). I still like the Erskine's Ramble title as at least its a little more politically correct.

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