Yesterday, March 6th, was banjoist Don Stover’s birthday. I wanted to share one of my favorite recordings of his, made with The Lilly Brothers, Everett and Bea. The song is from the romantic period of the late nineteenth century, and was first recorded by county music patriarch Earnest Stoneman with autoharp. He did it in archaic-sounding 4/4 time. It was charming enough, but here we have it in all its 2/4 glory!
If I were to be asked to describe Don’s picking, I’d call it some of the cleanest and most inventive I have heard. “It sparkles!” The instrumentals feature both Don’s banjo and Everett’s mandolin picking. Both have great drive. Since Everett is singing, he doesn’t do much instrumental fill during the verses, but Don more than makes up for it, including some nice harmonics (what country pickers call “chimes”) during the third verse. What got me excited was Don’s “tag” or ending of his banjo break. It’s four beats of pure delight, sort of going off sideways like a plot twist in an Alfred Hitchcock film! Don also adds a great tag to Everett’s mandolin break. Combined with the fine singing and harmony work, this cut is just plain fun to listen to.
If I’m not mistaken, the record was first released as a 78, but I heard it on one of Dave Freeman’s Lps from County/Rebel Records.