Sunday, February 6, 2011

Patty Loveless: Two Coats

Today’s Spiritual Sunday selection comes from Patty Loveless’ 2001 “Mountain Soul” CD. This release has a great selection of songs and it reminds me of the eight years that I lived in Eastern Kentucky. Some of my favorite tunes include “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” (which I prefer to Kathy Mattea’s version and Darrell Scott’s original), Ralph Stanley’s “Daniel Prayed,” and today’s selection “Two Coats.”

The illustration is of one’s taking off the old man and putting on the new one is told in the comparison of trading an old worn overcoat for one that is new and better. It is in an interesting key – B. For some reason, B is a popular key in bluegrass music. For the life of me, I don’t know why any string musician would want to play in B as it is a difficult key for guitars, mandolins, and banjos.

Emory Gordy, who coproduced the album with Loveless, plays slack-key guitar to get the very low B notes, which are a fourth lower than standard tuning. I learned this song on five-string banjo a number of years, but B was a key that was not only difficult to play, but too low for my voice. I came up with a modal banjo tuning of A D A D E – (which I can only remember though the mnemonic device of A Daddy). Typically, a five-string banjo is tuned as G D G B D.

I’ve never performed it, but now that I have a music room. I think I’ll work it up again using my own type of clawhammer style.

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