Erskine Morris (1913 – 1997)

Erskine Morris (1913 – 1997)

Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Bone in the Cupboard or Blackberry Blossoms

Here's a tune of Erskine's that Brian sent me a few years back that I've always loved. It's one of those ones with such a peculiar title that it makes you wonder if the person who named it was just seeing what they could get away with.

Hear Erskine play "Bone in the Cupboard"

I've always loved this tune because, technically speaking, the melody never resolves (it always ends on the 2nd rather than the 1st note of the scale). Because of this, you just want to keep going and you find yourself caught in a hypnotic loop with this simple little tune. A few of Erskine's Gaspé tunes have melodies like this (e.g. Fat Molasses, Little White House Under the Hill, Eva's Tune) and so I'd just assumed this tune must also be one from around Gaspé. It has a few snakey string crossings but overall, feels nice under the bow once you get it down. Erskine has a nice soft touch on this one, almost a plaintive sound.

I've been learning the 1-row button accordion since this past summer and have been really getting into the repertoire of the New York-born German-American accordionist John J. Kimmel. Kimmel was one of the earliest musicians to record, as early as 1906 on wax cylinders for Edison records). Kimmel is still revered 110 years after he made his first recordings, especially in Quebec where he is perhaps best known for his unrivaled and virtuosic interpretations of Irish tunes. Driving around town today, I was listening Kimmel's music interpreted by Raynald Ouellet, Denis Pépin, and Christian Maes on their homage to Kimmel album when a familiar melody came on. Indeed, it was the elusive "Bone in the Cupboard" but under a different title, "Blackberry Blossoms" (it's the 2nd tune in Kimmel's "Stack of Barley Medley")

You can hear Kimmel's version here (just wait until the second tune in the set) recorded in 1916 with Joe Linder on piano. It's remarkable how close his version is to Erskine's and given Kimmel's massive popularity in Quebec in the early 20th century, I wonder if Erskine's version comes either directly or indirectly from Kimmel.