An introduction to "The TzoraFolk Bluegrass Songbook"
(or you can skip it and go directly to the Contents: )
.... how many times have you sat in a jam and someone says "what do you wanna to play?", and you say "I dunno, what do you wanna play?" and you waste time trying to think of songs and end up playing "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" or "Old Joe Clark" .... again!
Normally there are enough pickers to provide titles for any number of instrumentals .... but what about the singers? Apart from a few songs where I've led the singing, I spent most of my fifty years of playing Bluegrass as the baritone singer (third voice) and only had to learn the choruses. What I needed was a collection of easily readable lyrics for lead singers.
So I was messing around, trying to work out how to put my collection of lyrics, for use in performances, onto my wife's iPad and came up with the idea of making a songbook in html format. As far as I can see, only one click or finger swipe is required to see the bottom half of the page .... but we'll see how it goes.
For starters, I've included songs that I used to perform or still perform, others that I've been playing for some fifty years, several that I'd always wanted to sing and a batch of others that I've heard played by others in our circle of pickers. I'll be adding more as they occur to me and if anyone ever sees and appreciates this web site, maybe they'll request songs to be added. The songs are not all Bluegrass standards. They also come from other genres but can be played Bluegrass style* and include some of the works of my favourite singers such as Red Allen, Bill Monroe, Jimmy Martin, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Doc Watson, Buddy Holly, Jimmy Driftwood and a whole host of Old Timey performers.
*Of particular note are three arrangements of songs that you'd never, in a million years, expect to find in a Bluegrass repertoire. Erroll Garner's "Misty" by Ray Stevens is about the cleverest arrangement I've ever heard. For ingenuity, this is closely followed by Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now" by the late Pete Sayers and the Grand Old Opry Roadshow (a U.K. band). This arrangement was appropriately used as the theme tune for the BBC's folk and country music programme "Both Sides Now" (the successor of the earlier programme "Country Meets Folk") which reflected two sides of the acoustic music scene in the U.K. and on which I performed quite a few times with "The Malcolm Price Trio", "The Clay County Travellers" and "The Southern Ramblers". Other than an abbreviated recording I made from the introduction to the show, I've not been able to find a complete version of Pete's "Both Sides Now" so if anyone can let me have a copy please let me know. The third is a bit more funky but does feature fiddle and banjo - Crystal Gayle singing Cole Porter's "It's All Right with Me", a song normally associated with Ella Fitzgerald.
While browsing through YouTube, looking for examples of the songs, I've come across one or two interesting arrangements that I thought I'd bring to your attention. They are not necessarily songs suitable for jamming but they are worth a listen.
Lyrics: Isn't it frustrating when your're browsing for lyrics and every link gives you "Oops, lyrics not available". Well you won't find that here! If there is a link to lyrics shown in the contents then they are definitely available. If, by chance, you get a message "This page can’t be displayed", then the error is mine - the lyrics are there but I've made a mistake in writing the link - easy to do as the link is case sensitive. Send me a message and I'll correct it. Talking of errors, I'm pretty sure all of the on line lyric page writers copy each other as the same mistakes occur in all of their pages.
Printing: If you use Internet Explorer you can easily print individual pages by opening the appropriate page in the browser, right click on the screen with the mouse, select "print preview" to make sure that the whole page width fits the paper. If the whole page width is not visible click on "shrink to fit" from the menu at the top of the page. If for example the whole page is not visible because there are a lot of verses, you can continue and allow the print out to be on two pages OR you can choose a custom size - play with the percentage until you are satisfied with the display. Then, in either case, simply click on "print document".
Keys: Obviously I don't know in what keys you sing a song. Songs like "Orange Blossom Special" and "Uncle Pen" have to be in the key of A for the benefit of the fiddle player. There are no rules except that you should usually try to sing a song in as high a key as possible which enables you to sing louder. I try to avoid difficult keys for musicians who don't use a capo - for example, I hate playing in Eb. (See the note on chord chart keys below).
Arrangements: except for a few songs where I've shown my own personal arrangement, I've kept the lyrics as simple as possible. Generally, I've only shown the chorus once. You may want to place it at the beginning of the song, just to set the tone, repeat it after each verse or after every two verses; 'sup to you bro'.
Same applies to instrumental solos; long introductions, short breaks (turn around) or long ones, based on the verse or the chorus, are all according to individual taste.
Titles beginning with the words "A" or "The" have been listed without the first word.
You'll find "A Good Woman's Love" in the "G" section listed as "Good Woman's Love; A".
Similarly, you'll find "The Fox" in the "F" section listed as "Fox; The".
The songbook has been on line for a while now and I've had a number of requests and suggestions. It was never my intention to include anything other than the lyrics but I've been asked to add ....
1. Chords for each song. First off and most importantly, I don't know in what key you sing.
More often than not, I don't know in what key I sing a particular song.
My idea was to produce uncluttered pages of lyrics that were easy to read and adding chords only adds to the clutter.
Most of the songs only have 3 or 4 chords and you can probably memorise the sequences (see jamming etiquette).
However, I have now added links to chords on the main contents page, when I am able to find them.
My Chord Charts - I am replacing the the links to the chords with my own chord charts in which I have included the down-beats in each bar. So that the relationship between chord beats and lyrics can be maintained, it is necessary to use a monospaced font, also called a fixed-pitch, fixed-width, or non-proportional font, which is a font whose letters and characters each occupy the same amount of horizontal space.
My personal preference is "Consolas" which I suggest you download and install on your computer.
Chord Chart Keys - most of the songs have been set in the keys of C, D and G which are the standard keys for Bluegrass songs and can be easily changed using a capo.
Transposing On the chord chart pages, you will find a "transpose" icon under the key signature which will take you directly to the Logue Music Services web site which has a clever little device which, in an instant, enables you to transpose the written key to the one of your choice.
If you already have a sheet with the chords shown, you can copy, paste and transpose them on this web site.
First highlight the text of the page and copy to your clipboard [Control] [C]. Make sure your highlighting includes all blank spaces otherwise the positioning of the chords, relative to the text, will be thrown out of sync. Click on the "transpose" icon and paste the lyrics in the appropriate window [Control] [V]. Insert the Old Key and the New Key and click on the "Click Here!" button. You may save the resulting page as a "txt" file or an "htm" file which you'll be able to display in your browser. Alternatively, cut and paste the resulting text into a "txt" or "doc" file remembering to give the file the name of the song and add the new key. DO NOT change the Font Face to anything other than a "monospaced font" as this will alter the relative positions of text and chords. The Output Format gives you several options such as the chords and text in different colours and chord symbols .
There is just one small problem. There should be a space between each lettered chord name "A to G". If a chord is transposed to one with a sharp "#" or flat "b", that symbol will use up the space left between letters. On the resultant transposition you may see a message to the effect that there are one or more adjacent chords with no space between them and that additional space should be added.
The additional space can be added manually before transposing. Alternatively, in the chord chart that you pasted in the appropriate window, add double spaces after each lettered chord name that will be transposed to a sharp of flat. Of course, just to be on the safe side you can add double spaces after each and every lettered chord name, BUT remember to maintain the relationship between the chord beats and lyrics; you may have to add or delete other spaces.
Here is a example of what the chord chart should look like. I've added additional "dots" to indicate the offbeats.
. |G . / . / . / . |C . / . / . /
There ain't no-body gonna miss me when I'm gone,
. |G . / . / . / . |D . / . / . / . |
There ain't no-body gonna mourn for me too long,
G . / . / . / . |C . / . / . /
Won't you write these words u-pon my head-stone,
. |G . / . D . / . |G . / . / . / . |
There ain't no-body gonna miss me when I'm gone.
2. Recordings of the songs. Having been introduced to the title, you can look it up yourself on YouTube or wherever, but I have now added links on the main contents page although it is difficult to find a decent, acceptable recording - especially the instrumentals. While many of the virtuosi play outstanding versions of these tunes, the improvisations are so intricate that it is difficult to pick out the melody. I once heard Artie Shaw, the jazz clarinettist, say that if you don't know the melody, you can't possibly understand the improvisations. In many cases I've included recordings from yesteryear of old time string bands as the best examples of the tunes. While there are some wonderful versions of the songs on YouTube, the acoustics, background noise and recording quality of many of the submissions are such that I could not bring myself to include them despite spending much time searching for them.
To access the chords and songs simply click on the icons next to the song title:Click on the song title to see the lyrics.
Click on to see the chords.
Click on to hear the song.
N.B. Some of the links for chords and to recorded songs
may not be exactly the same version shown in the lyrics.
3. Jamming etiquette - I was going to write a whole screed of stuff but found that The Arizona Bluegrass Association (A.B.A.) have laid out all the ground rules in a very clear and concise way. Pete "Dr. Banjo" Wernick has also set out the guidelines in his Bluegrass Jamming Basics. PLEASE read these.
So the A.B.A. refers to us as "pickers" and "grinners". A good indication that a jam is going well is that it starts to attract an audience or "grinners", as opposed to the participants or "pickers". On the other hand if they don't start to flock around, it could be that it doesn't sound too great. And you "grinners" - if you start crowding the players, it starts to become uncomfortable and limits their movements so please give them breathing space.
Another word to "grinners" at clubs and concerts. It is not only extremely rude but very distracting for the performers when members of the audience wander about the venue during a performance. If you find that you need leave your seat, please wait until the end of a song and NOT in the middle of it. I would not normally mention it while on stage as it would obviously embarass the person concerned, but one of these days . . . .
I'd like to emphasize just one point regarding "Jam-busters". I've yet to come across anyone who hogs a jam, so that is not the problem. With the best will in the world, I encourage anyone to join in a jam that I am leading. The main difficulty is with someone who does not realise his/her own limitations. If you want to lead a song, you must be able to do it with confidence, both instrumentally and vocally. Your instrument sets the tempo and must be able to control the other players. Your voice must be heard over the rest of the group's accompaniment. If you have a weak voice, let someone else do the lead singing. Stick to the known standard arrangement of the song so that that the other participants are able play along. If you do your own arrangement with different chord sequences and phrasing, no one will be able to follow you. When this happens, key players will start to drift away and you'll be left playing on your own. It is embarrassing to have to tell someone that they should not sing or play a song because they're not good enough, so try and get to grips with your own abilities.
You should learn the lyrics by heart, but it's ok to use a crib sheet which is the reason I compiled this songbook in the first place. In my dotage, I often forget a first line or the order of the verses and these pages help. However, use then as a standby and not instead of learning the words. I often think that the instrumental solos were included to give the lead singer time to remember the lyrics to the next verse and to catch his/her breath. If you do make a mistake, DO NOT STOP PLAYING. Try and gloss over it, make up some words or mumble something, play an instrumental break or sing a chorus and most people won't notice the error. If you mess up a solo and play something wrong, do it again and your listeners will think it's supposed to be like that.
Anyway, I hope you find this songbook useful and enjoy using it.
Contact me ....
This is a non-profit making web site, there are no advertisements and I do not make any money from it whatsoever.
Unlike many lyric pages on the web, I have tried to include the name/s of the composer/s of each song as they certainly deserve all the credit.
I make no claim to any of the lyrics, other than those I've written myself and if anyone holding the copyright of the material has any objection to them appearing here, I will remove them immediately.
Occasionally I have changed the lyrics to make more sense (at least to me), to improve the scanning (timing) of the lines or simply to comply with personal or local usage.