Adam Hurt, Clawhammerist
The sign of a good teacher is one who motivates the student to go beyond what she would have done otherwise. Skype lessons with Adam for over three years influenced my playing and perceptions forever after. Adam introduced me to his elegant playing style and to many musicians, especially fiddlers, whose tunes captures the essence of old-time mountain music. Here are some of the "extra credit homework assignments" he gave me to pursue these musicians and topics on my own.
One assignment was to search for tunes in a minor key. I found Kentucky fiddler George Lee Hawkins playing Goodbye, My Honey, I'm Gone.
Adam asked me to listen and arrange an Emmett Lundy tune. This Virginia fiddler is a favorite of Adam's. He once described Lundy's style as "syncopated, but also rolling; punctuated with interesting, deliberate spaces between or within phrases; and anticipatory what so often happens at the very BEGINNING of his phrases or parts. The important notes are played ahead of the downbeat and that beat being more implied than expressed."
Adam has a spectacularly lovely version of Garfield's Blackberry Blossom from blind fiddler Ed Haley. His extra assignment for me was to find another version and arrange it. I was surprised to find myself learning famous fiddler Dick Burnett's Blackberry Blossoms.
Ed Haley, originally of West Virginia and then of Kentucky, never daunted Adam with the complex, often original pieces which are his legacy. Any time I learned one of Haley's tunes Adam expressed great joy and satisfaction. I found Flowers of the Morning as delightful as its title. Lost Indian was a melody that fit the title better than many other melodic versions I've heard.
Adam is famous for his clawhammering clarity and beauty. He taught me Jack Danielson's Reel and then gave me the extra assignment of working on a 3-finger arrangement. I was pleased when he said he liked it even better! Played more quickly I think it would be a real beauty.
Kentucky fiddler Walter McNew is another favorite source of tunes for Adam. He asked me to try McNew's Lost Girl. The medley also includes my version of Adam's John Salyer's Lost Girl, which he recorded beautifully on piano.
It was surprising when the new tunings Adam taught me were so friendly to lots of tunes. Old CG tuning and Old G tuning were two of those and I became "gung ho" to arrange several. They included Meriweather, Squirrel Hunter, Bonaparte's Retreat, All The Gals is Gone Away, Betty Martin, Geese Honking, Brushy Fork of John's Creek, Dry and Dusty, Granny Went to Meeting, Horses in the Canebrake, Josie-O, Old Beech Leaves, Hog and Sheep Walking Through the Pasture, Rose in the Mountain, Skating on the Harbourfront, and more.
No description of working with Adam could leave out his favorite tuning of all -- Sandy River Belle, or SRB. Some call it Cumberland Gap tuning, but the nomenclature in the banjo world isn't a consistent one. Those of us who are privileged to work with Adam will always know fDGCD as SRB. He had arrange Big Sciota in SRB, and taught me many of my favorites from his gourd banjo CD Earth Tones (check it out here if you haven't -- the excellence of his playing caused me to seek him out as a teacher).
I was especially thrilled when I wrote my first tune in SRB tuning (or rather it wrote itself) and then it attracted Donald Nitchie's attention and was published in Banjo Newsletter. I thank Adam for that accomplishment. It was followed by several more originals, which you can listen to here.