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February 2008 · Bimonthly

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Tommy Jarrell's Version Of Back Step Cindy

by Stacy Phillips

In conjunction with part 3 of Nancy Dols Neithammer's great article about Tommy Jarrell in this issue, here is a transcription of one of his signature pieces, Back Step Cindy. (Jarrell also performed a very different setting of this piece which he called "Old Time Back Step Cindy".)

This is an example of the kind of seemingly simple piece that is quite difficult to notate in a way that delivers the essential information about a the way to play a fiddle tune in a meaningful way. It should give readers who are not familiar with the style an idea of the subtle intricasies of the style.

There are only a few different pitches but it's the bowing at issue here. Add to that some age-related looseness of pitch and Back Step Cindy turns into a real bear to transcribe.

This setting is not meant to be sight read. There's too much notation to just rip through. Of course, the best idea is to get the source for this version, Jarrell's CD The Legacy of Tommy Jarrell - Volume One: Sail Away Ladies on Rounder Records.

Listen for hook bowing is a slur that crosses strings such the end of the first measure. Then there are the anticipation of down beat notes, played an 1/8 or 1/4 note earlier than expected as the opening A notes in the 1st and 3rd measures.

Listen for rhythm "shots" such as the first A/D open strings in the 1st and 2nd endings of the 2nd section. And be alert for the occasional "crookedness" of the meter indicated by the 2/4 measures. Jarrell gently swung his 1/8 notes.

You can get this, as well as around 725 more detailed transcriptions in my Phillips Collection of Traditional American Fiddle Tunes. Almost all of the pieces in this tome are a lot easier to notate and read than this one.

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