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Tune History

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The Stories Behind Your Favorite Tunes


Fine Times At Our House

West Virginia Fiddler Edden Hammons

Editor's Note: Upon hearing that several members of our Knoxville Old Time community have recently bought or sold houses, this Edden Hammons tune came to mind. Only later did we find out that the title likely refers to a birth . So we looked again, but could not find any Old Time tunes about mortgages, escrow, inspections, etc. Go figure. However, this is a great tune and does have “house" in the title. May there be many "fine times" for all!

This tune is from the playing of famed West Virginia fiddler Edden Hammonds. Musician and folklorist Alan Jabbour  wrote, "This tune has turned up infrequently around the country, but its wide distribution shows it to be an old and once widely known fiddle tune." He says that the title appears to refer to a birth in the household, as reflected in a verse that has been collected with the tune from another West Virginia source:

Fine times at our house, Kate’s got a little one; 

Bless its little soul, it’s another little pretty one.

There’s quite a bit going on here musically, but don't let it intimidate you. Hammons plays the tune in the key of A in Mixolydian mode, (the 7th degree of the scale flatted). Don't roll your eyes just yet- here are some real world examples of songs in Mixolydian mode: Rock of Ages, When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again, and  L.A. Woman by the Doors.

In addition, Hammons tuned his fiddle ADAE, which is standard fiddle tuning, but with the 4th string tuned up a whole step from G to A. Although this is a common old time fiddle tuning for the key of D, its use for tunes in A is more unusual. And the doubling of notes and the featuring of a low D note gives the melody its unique character and makes it sound “old” or "archaic". Fitting, because the melody is old. Since Hammons was not formally trained, learning mostly from family members, he (like most of us) was probably not a music theory student. But he did know how to get the sound he wanted.

But wait- there's more! The A part is slightly crooked, with an extra beat at the end. Alternate tunings and crooked phrases are fairly common in Hammons' playing style. That is part of what makes him distinctive and interesting to listen to. 

Learn lots more about Edden Hammonds in the MUSIC section. 

EXTRA BONUS! 31 tunes from Edden Hammons courtesy of the Slippery Hill website.

Edden Hammons

Fine Times At Our House

Fine times At Our House

Rhys Jones

WaynesboroEdden Hammons
00:00 / 02:36
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