"Down the River I Go" is one of those D-mixolydian fiddle tunes that sound really old ... but maybe aren't.
I learned it from Don Pedi, mountian dulcimer artist of Madison County, N.C., who got it from the Double Decker String Band, a popular group of old-time musicians on the East Coast, and an a cappella version from McDowell County, W.Va. It isn't listed in Fiddler's Companion, but it's become a favorite on the oldtime music scene. I even found video clips on YouTube of string bands playing it last year in Denmark!
Don has lived in the North Carolina mountains since the 1970s, and he specializes in fiddle tunes he learned from the oldtimers who were still active in those days. As he tells the story, he first heard the dulcimer played by Richard and Mimi Farina (Joan Baez' sister and brother-in-law) in Cambridge, Mass. He fell in love with it, migrated with the folk music scene to the Rockies and eventually to North Carolina. He is now considered a tradition bearer in his own right.
Don Pedi in Townsend, Tenn. -
Don's performance in May 2010 at Wood-N-Strings Dulcimer Shop in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, Townsend, Tenn., "Down the River" is from 4:09 to 5:41. Tab available at http://www.donpedi.com/ (click on "Tab" and scroll down. He also has instructional books, CDs and a DVD with workshops on: 1. Free Style Strumming, 2. Natural Noting and 3. How to Play By Ear. Highly recommended. He also teaches in the dulcimer traditions class at Lois Hornbostel's Dulcimerville workshop in Black Mountain, N.C. This workshop, every year in early June, is also very highly recommended!
In Copenhagen -
Foghorn Stringband, of Portland, Ore., playing at an Irish-themed pup called Bloomsday Bar in the "Latin quarter" or university district in downtown Copenhagen. Filmed by Jesper Deleuran of the Danish band Big Hungry Joe (Peter Lorichs on banjo, Jesper Deleuran on guitar and vocal, Lasse Høi on harmonica and harmony, Mathias Enevoldsen on bass and Tobias Enevoldsen on fiddle). Here they are, below, practicing "Down the River" and "Big Eyed Rabbit."
[Deleuran's YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/r810s also has a vocal of the Dave van Ronk song "He Was a Friend of Mine" and several lengthy videos of a live performance in Denmark.]