Thursday, September 15, 2011

John Stenson's No. 2 / for Prairieland Dulcimer Strings

Our song for the "first Thursday" session of the Prairieland Dulcimer Strings on Oct. 6 is "John Stenson's No. 2." It's an Irish reel adapted for American dulcimer. It was originally played in A major, and string bands still play it in that key, but there are lots of "D for dulcimer" versions out there. DAD tab and a MIDI file are available on the Mountain Dulcimer Association website of Huntsville, Ala.

I'll link to performances of the tune in both its Irish and American versions so you can hear how it's evolved ... and if you get bored with the DAD chords, it has a really nice melody.

A favorite jam tune in the mountain and hammered dulcimer worlds, "John Stenson's No. 2" has come a long way from County Sligo, where Irish fiddler Kevin Burke's relatives played it on a button box accordion. From a melodic, highly ornamented Irish fiddle tune, it's changed into a high-octane, flat-out tour de force for dulcimers. It's also changed its spelling, for reasons that aren't quite clear to me, and Americans often know it as John Stinson's with a "i." However you spell it and whatever key you play it in, it's a fine jam tune.

I first heard it in jam sessions at Western Carolina University's dulcimer week (now Lois Hornbostel's Dulcimerville workshop), with more than a hundred players joyously strumming away. It's always played fast (it's a reel), but I think it sounds best when it retains some of the bounce and lilt of good Irish session music.

As with all fiddle tunes, the tablature is only a rough outline. Most mountain dulcimer tab, at least in DAD, has some interesting chord changes in the B Part, but it tends to flatten out the melody.

My inroductory notes are in italics, and I'll copy the information from YouTube below with the embedded videos.

Irish (well, Australian)
and American string bands

First, two members of an Irish band in Hobart, Australia (called the "Craic-pots" if you like puns!) play it very much as Irish fiddle player Kevin Burke learned the tune from his relatives in County Sligo:

Reels by the River - Anna & Ryan: John Stenson's no.2 / Otter's Holt
Uploaded by AnnaAndRyan07 on Dec 6, 2009. Tasmanian Irish folk duo Anna & Ryan. Band Members:Anna Elliston & Ryan Garth. "Anna and Ryan playing some exciting reels down by the Richmond Bridge, Tasmania, oldest bridge in Australia." John Stenson's to 2:00 and a little reprise at the end.

Next, an American old-time string band's version. It's a little more laid-back and easy-going than I usually hear it, but the melody comes through.

John Stinsons Number Two - Rachel Eddy, Krisitan Herner, and Bill Fahy Uploaded by polishbill on Jul 8, 2010. Fahy's 2010 Yard Concert Featuring Rachel Eddy, Kristian Herner and Bill Fahy perfoming Rachels new favorite tune, Stinsons #2, followed by Rachel and Kristian perfoming Dance all Nite with a Bottle in your Hand

In the dulcimer world
(hammered and mountain)

Midwestern hammered dulcimer maven Rick Thum, of High Ridge, Mo., followed by Bing Fulch and J.T. Taylor letting it all hang out on mountain dulcimer. Listen for Bing's chords in the B Part.

John Stenson's #2 and Hangman's Reel. In concert in Rockford, Mich., November 2009. Ken Kaiser backed Thum on guitar.

Bing Futch & JT Taylor - John Stinson's #2 (Part 1). Portage Dulcimer Day Concert 2010, Portage Pa, 7/3/2010

Bing Futch & JT Taylor - John Stinson's #2 (Part 2)

Outtakes. Here are some other versions. Give them a listen: You may hear something you want to incorporate into your own playing.

Kevin Burke ~ The Star Of Munster ❖ John Stenson's No. 1 ❖ John Stenson's No. 2
Uploaded by user eireann0 in 2011, from the CD If the Cap Fits. Third in a set of three reels by the Irish master fiddler. John Stenson's No. 1 begins at 1:24 and John Stenson's No. 2 at 2:03. The Stenson family is related to Burke. Of Co. Sligo.

Evart2010 John Stinson's #2
Posted by GingerJaneM. 6:06. "Around midnight Saturday, July 17." Jamming w/ four hammered dulcimers.

John Stinson's #2
FlatMountainDulcimer "[M]ountain dulcimer performing group out of eastern North Carolina, playing mountain music in the flatlands of the southeast. the group players are Nancy, Dave and Margit."

Kiowa Special + John Stenson's #2
From: dfusselman Feb 23, 2008. Progressive version on mandolin and mountain dulcimer. John Stenson's starts at 2:14.

Mountain Dulcimer - Dulcimerica Video Podcast #63
Part seven of a series from the 2008 Suwannee Dulcimer Retreat at Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park in White Springs, Florida. This episode features a couple of pairs: Mary Z. Cox and Bing Futch play a rousing rendition of "John Stinson's #2"; David Beede and Aaron O'Rourke play David's original "meta-protest song", "Shadow of Dylan."

See also

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