John Riley the Shepherd – Old Time Ukulele


Betty Likens – ‘Old Time’

I’m starting to get interested in ‘old time’ country music. These are the predecessors of modern bluegrass and many of the tunes have their roots in Irish, Scottish and Northern English traditional music. This version of Betty Likens (or Betsy Likens) seems to have been altered to sound more bluesy, there’s a lot of pentatonic stuff going on here. I’ve used Lisa McCormick’s guitar part (her lesson is on Youtube) and added ukulele and my diddley-bow (this one is a cigar box version).

Pressed For Time – Gordon Duncan

This tune, written by the Scottish bagpiper Gordon Duncan is interesting in that is has some guitar-style licks in it, not at all what you’d expect from bagpipes! I listened to the Irish group Flook playing this and the guitarist used a simple backing of G, D and A (it’s in the key of D). The way he played them reminded me of early AC/DC songs like “Live Wire”, so I decided to add electric guitar to my arrangement. The 16th notes which are played for ornamentation are done by ‘chicken picking’ the same string (so not campanella) -thumb, middle, thumb. I’ve written out the tab so you can try for yourself if you wish.

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the Road to Ballinamuck

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My tribute to Maggie Boyle who died last year at the young age of 57.
A lovely person who I had the privilege to meet a couple of times on the UK folk scene. If you think you’ve never heard of her, you might remember the theme tune to Patriot Games with Harrison Ford ( https://youtu.be/BdhCBzZQ0mo ), and also Legends of the Fall, both scores written by James Horner, a big Celtic music fan.
This simple tune is actually quite tricky to play in the campanella style – the repetition of E’s and F’s in the first part need to played alternately on the third and second strings. The original had Maggie on flute and tin whistle and Steve Tilston on guitar.
Listen to it here: https://maggieboyle.bandcamp.com/track/pancake-tuesday-road-to-ballinamuck

Thanks to Baton Rouge Ukuleles for my new instrument, the V6 C Venus

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