Erskine Morris (1913 – 1997)

Erskine Morris (1913 – 1997)

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Devil's Dream: Two Unusual Versions

I wanted to do a quick post before I hit the road Wednesday for Douglastown.

Here's a great version of a very ubiquitous tune in fiddle music from Scotland that has made it all the way to the American South.  I have to honestly say that the way this tune is commonly played doesn't do very much for me.  It seems more like a classical technique exercise than a good fiddle tune to me.  However, Erskine played two great versions of this tune that are very different from the standard setting.

To play both of these versions, the fiddle must be tuned to A-E-A-E from bass to treble string.  I feel this tuning combined with this modified melody makes these two versions much more pleasant than the conventional version.  Erskine used this tuning on most of the old time Gaspesian tunes in the key of A.  He called this "tuning double" presumably because when tuned up, the two bass strings match the same notes as the two treble strings.

Both of Erskine's versions have this lovely rolling quality to them.  Cyril talked about how the old-timers around Gaspe used to roll their tunes and I believe this is what he is talking about when we listen to Erskine's settings of the Devil's Dream.

The first version has some resemblance to the version Isidore Soucy recorded.  Here we have a recording from a tape made at Erskine's brother Manny's place that I really love.  There is some really great old-style fiddling on this tape and we thank Manny's wife, Phyllis for lending us this tape.  We're not sure who the guitarist is but they do a fine job backing Erskine up here.

Hear the first version of the Devil's Dream at Manny's place

Now here's another version from the same recording session that as, Erskine points out is "played a different way".  At first, I thought he meant that its different from the well-known version.  However, when I went to relearn the tune from this recording there was a phrase missing in this version.  So perhaps he meant played different from the other version he recorded that day.

Hear the Devil's Dream played a different way at Manny's place

Here's the same version as the first one above played in 1990 where you really get to hear Erskine step it up a notch with his feet:

Hear the Devil's Dream from 1990

Hope to see some of the readers in Douglastown the first week of August.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Bois-Brulé Jig - Another Recording

Recently, Brian began digitizing another great tape from his aunt Phyllis.  The recording quality on this cassette is excellent, you feel like you are in the same room with Erskine as he's playing.  On this tape is another outstanding version of the Bois-Brulé Jig that we posted a few weeks ago.

Hear the Bois-Brulé Jig

His playing on this take is really crisp and clear and all the notes stand out really well.  Notice something unusual here: Erskine is not clogging his feet as he plays.  We're not sure why this is missing, we know Erskine considered clogging integral to his music.  Perhaps this was recorded in a carpeted room?