Pick the Devil's Eye Out

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PICK THE DEVIL'S EYE OUT. AKA - “Pickin(g) the Devil’s Eye.” Old-Time, Breakdown (3/4 or 2/4 time). USA; Mississippi, Arkansas. A Major. AEac# tuning (fiddle). Recorded (as "Pickin' the Devil's Eye") in 1939 for the Library of Congress by Herbert Halpert from the playing of Magee, Simpson County, Mississippi, fiddler Enos Canoy with straw beating by Jim Meyers [AFS 03058 A01]. Halpert originally listed the tune as "The Pig and the Devil's Eye." Canoy mentions that the plucking of the strings is “pickin’ the Devil’s eye, trying to get it out.” The title appears in a list of traditional Ozarks Mountains fiddle tunes compiled by musicologist/folklorist Vance Randolph, published in 1954. Grayson County, Va., fiddler Thornton Spencer also played a version in ADad tuning called “Pickin’ Out the Devil’s Eyes,” learned from 75 year old fiddler Muncy Galtney, who said it was the oldest tune he knew. Spencer was the brother-in-law of revered old-time fiddler Albert Hash, who taught him to play.

Canoy's version is played quite fast, with a strong duple beat, however, underlying it is triple time rhythm. Played slower, Canoy's tune can be heard as a member of the "Rye Whiskey" family of old-time song-tunes.

Source for notated version: Enos Canoy, who learned it from the playing of Love Kennaday, according to Halpert's field notes.

Printed sources: Bolick (Mississippi Fiddle Tunes), 2015, p. 244.

Recorded sources: Document DOCD-8071, Enos Canoy - "Mississippi Fiddle Tunes" (2015. Various artists). HCR-CD001, The Whitetop Mountaineers - "Go Away with Me" (2010).

See also listing at:
Hear Thornton Spencer play the tune in a recording from the 1979 Fiddler's Grove festival [1] [2]
Hear Enos Canoy's recording at Slippery Hill [3]




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