Annotation:Snowbird on the Ashbank (1)

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X:1 T:Snowbird on the Ashbank [1] S:Oscar Wright (1894-1978?, Princeton, Mercer County, extreme southern W.Va.) M:C| L:1/8 D:Rounder 0089, Oscar and Eugene Wright - "Old-Time D:Fiddle And Guitar Music From West Virginia" (1978) F: Z:Transcribed by Andrew Kuntz K:G d2|+slide+g2 ga ged2|g2 ga ged(e|=f)efg fede|=fefg fed2| g2g2- gga_b|ag=f2 g3a|[M:5/4]gedc Bcdc A-B|[M:C|] [G,6G6]|| [DB]c|d2g2gagg|d2g2 gagg|de-=fe- fg^fe|de-=fe- fg^fe| d2g2 g2-g(a|a)_bag =f2g2-|gage dcBc A-B|[G,6G6]|| |:GE|DEGA BAGA|BBdd edBB|AF-F2 [A,3F3][A,F]-| [A,F]GAB c2 dc| A2G2G2G2|AGAB c2c2|[M:3/2]cde=f gfee dcA=F|[M:C|] [G,6G6:|

SNOWBIRD ON THE ASHBANK [1]. AKA and see "Snowbird (2)," "Georgia Snowbird." American, Reel (cut time). G Major/Mixolydian. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB (Brody, Phillips). A 'snowbird' is a nickname for a the dark-eyed junco, a species of ground-feeding bird that can be seen hopping around during migration season. To cope with the cold of winter, Juncos seasonally increase insulating plumage to stay warm, leading to the association of the 'plumper' bird with snow.

The title ("Snowbird" or "Snowbird on the Ashbank") must have been evocative for it has been applied to several, often unrelated tunes in the upland South, Piedmont and Midwest. To give an idea of its distribution, the name "Snowbird on the Ashbank" appears in a list of traditional Ozarks Mountains fiddle tunes compiled by musicologist/folklorist Vance Randolph, published in 1954, and it was listed as one of the standard tunes in a square dance fiddler's repertoire by A.B. Moore in his History of Alabama, (1934)[1]. A 'Snowbird' tune was also in the repertoire of fiddler Osey Helton, western North Carolina (probably the same tune as Manco Sneed's "Snow Bird" AKA "Georgia Snowbird"), and a "Snowbird on the Ashbank" was played by Arizona fiddler Kenner C. Kartchner who remarked: "A jumping bow in the second change is popular as it emulates a misguided snowbird flitting in an ash bank, thinking it's snow"[2]. See Oklahoma fiddler Earl Collins' "Snowbird on the Ashbank (2)" for a good example of what Kartchner describes.

"Snowbird on the Ashbank [1]" is sourced to fiddler Oscar Wright (1894-1978?) of Princeton, Mercer County, West Virginia, in the extreme southern part of the state, not far from the border with southwest Virginia, in the western foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Folklorist Alan Jabbour heard about Wright through fiddler and bagpiper Franklin George of Bluefield, W.Va.; Wright, in turn, introduced Jabbour to fiddler Henry Reed of Glen Lyn, southwester Virginia, who had been one of Wright's mentors. All three musicians lived between ten and twenty miles from each other. Wright's "Snowbird on the Ashbank" is reminiscent of the American tune "Paddy on the Turnpike (1)" with its overall modal tonality and double-tonic styling. Wright had many of Henry Reed's tunes, but this one he learned from "One Eyed Jim Bell, from over in Virginia, over on John's Creek." Sneed's "Snow Bird"/"Georgia Snowbird" is a distanced but cognate version with Wright's "Snowbird on the Ashbank (1)," but with parts reversed.

Additional notes
Source for notated version : - Fuzzy Mountain String Band (Durham, N.C.) [Brody]; John Hartford [Phillips].

Printed sources : - Brody (Fiddler’s Fakebook), 1983; p. 261. Phillips (Traditional American Fiddle Tunes, vol. 1), 1994; p. 225.

Recorded sources : - Arhoolie 5018, Uncle John Patterson (Ga.). Rounder 0035, Fuzzy Mountain String Band "Summer Oaks and Porch" (1973. Learned from Oscar Wright, Princeton, W.Va.). Rounder 0089, Oscar and Eugene Wright "Old Time Fiddle and Guitar Music from West Virginia" (1978).

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  1. Joyce H. Cauthen, With Fiddle and Well-Rosined Bow, 1990)
  2. L. Shumway, Frontier Fiddler, 1990.