Elk River Blues

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ELK RIVER BLUES. Old Time, Air/Listening Piece. USA, West Virginia. G Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AA'. Composed by Braxton County, West Virginia, old-time fiddler Ernie Carpenter (1909-1997). According to the booklet accompanying Carpenter's LP, the story behind the tune is one of a difficult adjustment to a forced change in Ernie's life. He had worked most of his life for the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company in Clarksburg, prior to retiring in 1972 to his home in Braxton County, West Virginia. He was a regular visitor during his working years to his homeplace on the Elk River, and was witness to the planning and construction of the Sutton Dam by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on the river during the 1950's and 1960's. Unfortunately, this resulted in the flooding of his boyhood home and the surrounding area, despite the efforts of himself and neighbors to forestall the project through a lobbyist. He refused the government's initial offer for his land (they didn't offer him anything for his house), and took the case to court. He was able to gain a marked increase in the money he eventually was paid through this process, although had to pay legal fees out of his pocket. He stayed in his Elk River homestead while the dam was being constructed, even though most of his neighbors had already left. Workmen blocked the roads in and out of the area, but Carpenter found alternate routes until they too were closed off. "I was the last person out of there," he said," I went ahead then and tore the old place town and brought it up here. Part of its in this house." Of the tune, he remarked: "I was sittin' here one day, an' I had the blues. I reckon as bad as anybody could, thinkin' about my old homeplace up on the Elk River. I started sawin' on the fiddle an' that's what I came up with."

Ernie Carpenter



The tune is played slower than a breakdown, at a very brisk walking pace.

Source for notated version:

Printed sources:

Recorded sources: Augusta Heritage Recordings ‎AHR-003C, Ernie Carpenter - "Elk River Blues" (1994). Reed Island Rounders - "Goin' Home" (2002).

See also listing at:
Jane Keefer's Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [1]
Hear Ernie Carpenter play "Elk River Blues" on youtube.com [2]
See Glen Weiser's standard notation transcription [3]
See Pete Showman's standard notation transcription [4]
Hear Paul Tyler and Steve Rosen's learning version at the Old Towne School of Folk Music's Fiddle Tune Archive [5]




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