So last night my wife and daughter went to see one of their favorite bands The Avett Brothers at the Mann Music Center in Philly. Like always, they said they were awesome and I’m sure they were, but like Mumford and Sons there is just some about the band that doesn’t thrill me. I know that my opinion is not held by many. To try to sway me, my wife said that there was a least one song that I would have liked. For the first song of a three song encore, the band performed a song from Doc Watson, “Shady Grove”. My first response was that everybody does “Shady Grove”. Her response was “So” and she’s right that the fact that lots of people have recorded the song really doesn’t change my opinion of the Avett’s cover!
Anyway just for my edification I went to Wikipedia to read up on the song:
Shady Grove” is an 18th-century folk song popular in the United States. It is a standard in the repertoires of folk, Celtic and bluegrass musicians. In most traditional versions, the melody is in a minor key. However, Bill Monroe’s and some subsequent bluegrass versions use a major-key variation.
Many verses exist, most of them describing the speaker’s love for a woman called Shady Grove. There are also various choruses, which refer to the speaker traveling somewhere (to Harlan, to a place called Shady Grove, or simply “away”). Some[who?] have said there have been over 300 stanzas written and added as variations. One of the most recognized cover version belongs to Charlene Darling and the Darling boys on an episode of The Andy Griffith Show (Divorce, Mountain Style (1964)), portrayed by Maggie Peterson and The Dillards.
The melody is similar to, and possibly based on, that of an old English ballad, “Matty Groves”.
Here’s a partial list of the well-over a hundred artists that have covered the song! (links are to the YouTube videos)
Among the Oak & Ash
Jerry Garcia, Tony Rice and David Grisman on the Pizza Tapes
Jerry Garcia and David Grisman also recorded it on their album of the same name
Big Joe Williams
Quicksilver Messenger Service on the album of the same name
J.J. Cale on the album Number 10
The Kingston Trio performed on their live album “…from the Hungry i”
Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder
Kerosene Brothers, also better known as Hayseed Dixie
Mudcrutch, Tom Petty’s first band, on their debut album released in 2008
The Everly Brothers
The Chieftains with Tim O’Brien on the album Further Down the Old Plank Road (2003)
Jayke Orvis & the Broken Band
Jason Nesmith (son of Michael Nesmith) on the album Shelter
Cabinet (Wilkes-Barre, Pa)
David Rivett (acoustic guitarist, Western Australia)
Janet Potin en David Egter van Wissekerke
I will say though that Doc Watson and Ricky Skaggs in my opinion are the two artists most associated with the song! Anyway tonight my wife posted a video of last nights performance and put my name in the comment so I’d see it! I watched it and liked the cover, but I did notice that there was a fiddler playing with the band. I went to several sites including the band’s website and I see no fiddler. Is he new to the band or is he someone who only plays on this song??? Anyone know??? I joked with my wife that the addition of a fiddler changes the whole dynamics of the band!!
So here’s the video! What do you think!! I say not bad, out of the links they may finish third to Hot Rize and Ricky Skaggs’ versions, or maybe fourth, but then again I think Doc’s version stands alone!