Shady Grove is a tune that has had a lot of play over the years. I always associate this one with Doc Watson. I learned to play a version of this tune when I started learning clawhammer, but stopped playing it for no real reason and it drifted out of my memory. I’ve recently started playing it again, so I’ve been listening to various versions. The following video featuring Doc with the Kruger Brothers is a great example of his signature approach to the tune, and it features Jens Krugers wonderful banjo picking.
Bruce Molsky is one of my favourite old time musicians. If you’re just getting into this kind of music and you’re thinking of adding some old time tunes to your collection, you can’t go wrong with Molsky, whose recorded output is excellent. He plays banjo, fiddle and guitar – but here he is on banjo playing Shady Grove.
We usually think of Shady Grove as a “modal” tune (Dorian mode), but it has been done as a major tune as well. Kilby Snow, the autoharp player, recorded a great version of this. You can hear a sample of that here. Also, enjoy Zepp’s major version on banjo….
Homework: check out a tune called The Death of Sis Draper by Guy Clark. I couldn’t find it on YouTube. It’s on his recent (tremendously good) recording, My Favorite Picture of You. The Death of Sis Draper is done to the tune of Shady Grove. It is a followup to his much earlier tune Sis Draper. Not only does it use the melody from Shady Grove, it also references Shady Grove in the lyrics. We love this whole album around 27th Street – you will too.