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 traditional instrumental music with annotations, formerly known as
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Cumberland Gap

Played by : Rising Appalachia
Source : Youtube
Image : Union soldiers passing through Cumberland Gap, 1863

Cumberland Gap

The Cumberland Gap is a pass in the Appalachians between upper Tennessee and Kentucky. It is through this passage in the mountains that Daniel Boone in 1773 led a group of pioneers into Kentucky along his famous Wilderness Road, an event famous in American history that association with may have helped to popularize the melody (or, rather, populaize the title for a fiddle tune, as there are several different tunes that are called "Cumberland Gap"). The tune is very wide-spread throughout the upland South and many variants exist, along with some unrelated tunes that bear the same title. Alan Jabbour has written that it dates "well back" in the 19th century, and, while it bears melodic resemblance to some Irish reels in part, its derivation is yet to be determined. Mike Yates (2002) says that Bascom Lamar Lunsford maintained that "Cumberland Gap" was a speeded-up version of the ballad "Bonny James Campbell" (also rendered as a southern fiddle tune) while Yates finds the Niel Gow's "Skye Air" carries a "faint suggestion" of the Appalachian standard. Still, Yates admits there seems to be no early printings of the tune.

Various couplets have been set to the tune. The Carolina Ramblers sang on a test pressing in 1932:

Me and my wife and my wife's Pap,
Walked all the way through the Cumberland Gap.

Lay down boys, take a little nap,
Forty-nine miles of the Cumberland Gap.

My and my wife, several little chaps,
We built a home on the Cumberland Gap.

The Cumberland Gap's an awful place,
Can't get the water for to wash your face.

Similarly, forty years later banjo player Dent Wimmer of Floyd, Floyd County, Virginia, sang:

My and my wife and seventeen chaps,
Walked all the way to Cumberland gap.

Cumberland Gap's an awful dry place,
You can't get water to wash your face.

Jabbour found 32 recordings of tunes with the title "Cumberland Gap" in the Library of Congress sound archives, while Bruce Greene and John Harrod's field recordings of Kentucky fiddlers alone yielded fifty-two performances of the title. One of the earliest versions was recorded on an Edison Bell cylinder by Allen Sisson.

The tune was played by Rock Ridge, Alabama, fiddlers c. 1920 (Devil's Box, vol. 17, #2, p. 20). It was in the repertoires of Fiddlin' Cowan Powers 1877-1952? (Russell County, southwest Va.) who recorded it in 1924 for Victor {though it was unissued}, and African-American fiddler Cuje Bertram of Kentucky's Cumberland Plateau region (Bertram recorded it on a 1970 home recording made for his family, see "Cumberland Gap (4)").

...more at: Cumberland Gap - full Score(s) and Annotations

X:1 T:Cumberland Gap [1] S:Uncle Am Stuart (1853-1926, Morristown, Tennessee) M:C| L:1/8 D:Vocalion 14839 (78 RPM), Uncle Am Stuart (1924) F: F: Z:Andrew Kuntz K:G ((3ABc||d2) (3cBA GBAc|Be2f e2((3ABc|d2) BA GBAG|EG2A G3B| dedB GBeB|edef efge|dedB GBAG|EG2A G3B| dedB GBeB|edef efge|dedB GBAG|EG2A G4|| d2ga bgag|eaab (3aba ge|dgga bgag|(eg)ga g2(3age| dega bgag|eaab (3aba ge|dgga bgag|(eg)ga g2e2||

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Although we are not trained musicologists and make no pretense to the profession, we have tried to apply such professional rigors to this Semantic Abc Web as we have internalized through our own formal and informal education.
This demands the gathering of as much information as possible about folk pieces to attempt to trace tune families, determine origins, influences and patterns of aural/oral transmittal, and to study individual and regional styles of performance.
Many musicians, like ourselves, are simply curious about titles, origins, sources and anecdotes regarding the music they play. Who, for example, can resist the urge to know where the title Blowzabella came from or what it means, or speculating on the motivations for naming a perfectly respectable tune Bloody Oul' Hag, is it Tay Ye Want?
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