Re: [Harp-L] Bluegrass: thoughts and observations

Hi John, that's a good question - what's our "way in" when playing
traditional music that has an emphasis on vocal harmony? What instrument is
the harmonica most similar to? Fiddle, banjo? The fiddle is the answer for
me, Mike Stevens seems to get his inspiration from the banjo.

In my own band I approach each song from a stylistic approach. Since The
Whistling Wolves play a broad cross section of southern vernacular music I
like to pull from fiddlers for the old time tunes, maybe from Charlie McCoy
for the Nashville stuff and from harp players for the blues and jug band
songs. There's a song called "Poughkeepsie" on The Whistling Wolves YouTube
page  [] where I do my best to compliment
our singer Emily Eagen (a two time world champion whistler btw!), and the
backing singers. It's tricky, you want to avoid at all costs stepping on the
singers, yet you need to provide support, especially if you're working in a
small band. I know it sounds constraining but its a delight to do. And you
know what, after 30 years I'm still working on it.

Of all the groups I've worked with The Whistling Wolves is by far my
favorite. For the first time I get to sing (huge for those who have yet to
make the leap!) and play all the styles I really like (old time, early
country and blues). Another plus of this acoustic music is freeing yourself
from the quest for the perfect amp and mic. During my "Chicago years" I
spent a fortune on tweed and crystal - now I bring my case full of 40ish
Sleigh and Filisko harps, my AT 4033 mic that we all play and sing into and
relax and play good old fashioned American folk music - got to love it.


On Sun, Jan 23, 2011 at 5:40 PM, John Kerkhoven

> Trip,
> What caught my attention in your last post is this little
> innocuous-sounding line:
> >
> > you have to do the work and understand the role of the instrumentalist in
> a band that prominently features vocal harmony.
> >
> I've just joined, in the role of an accompanist, a band that prominently
> features vocal harmony. (Bass, guit, mandolin, plus me on short harp.) I've
> discovered for some of the songs (mostly originals) that if I think violin I
> stand a better chance of finding my way in.
> Wondering if you could offer a few more words about how you understand the
> role of the instrumentalist -- for instance, your role in Whistling Wolves
> (you guys sound great, btw).
> John

Trip Henderson

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