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Dear Diary ... The Podcast Archives: 2011

For much of 2011, The Flood was focused on the band's old comrade and co-founder Roger Samples and on the start of what would be Rog's five-year battle with cancer. At the end of the previous year, doctors in Lexinton, Ky., found a Rogercancer in his trachea; the situation was grave -- the cancer was aggressive -- but the doctors were preparing him and the family for a fight, with chemo therapy to start in late January. As soon as the word spread, Roger's friends and family started gathering give what support they could.

-- For starters, on a bright, crisp January Saturday, a big bunch of us headed to the Samples home in Mount Sterling, Ky,, for a day of music with Roger and his brothers, Mack and Ted, who form the legendary Samples Brothers Band.

-- In the weeks that followed, smaller groups of the friends made calls on Mount Sterling to pick with Roger and try to take his mind off the doctors, hospitals and treatment schedules.

-- In the summer, Rog even made a trip to Huntington for a memorial evening with The Flood; the memory is bittersweet, since that would be Rog's last session with his old bandmates.

-- After that summer, music was never easy again for Rog, but he tried to keep his sense of humor. In fact, in early 2012, Roger would share his last composition with us, a song he called "Chemo Blues."

-- Roger put up quite a fight against the invader. Shortly after his initial diagnosis, doctors said he would live only six months to a year; he extended the struggle to five years, losing only in the winter of 2016. He is never far from our thoughts and always will be.

During these tense times, at least in The Flood were fortunate to have many distractions during the weekly jam sessions. In fact, in 2011, the jams turned into something like weekly parties at the Bowen house. The year saw many returning visitors -- especially future Floodsters Randy Hamilton and Paul Martin (hear a great tune by the two of them from that September right here) -- and nearly a score of performers, including Nerf Brown, Phyllis Dale, Buddy Griffin, Mark Keen, Rob McNurlin, Tom Norman, Jesse Smith, Susan Staton and Paula Stewart.

Finally, there are many stand-out memories from 2011's weekly podcasts; one particularly sweet one was when Joe demonstrated the sound of the new fifth string that he added to one of his fiddles. Hear it here!


         January | February | March | April | May | June | July | August | September | October | November | December


JANUARY

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The Samples Bros. with Buddy Griffin

Jan. 6, 2011.  Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives to Me. 1919 was an amazing year in music. With The Great War over, Tin Pan Alley was pumping out the hits again. "12th Street Rag" and "Royal Garden Blues," "Swanee" and "I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate." Meanwhile, on the other end of the block, a trio of composers -- Charles McCarron, Casey Morgan and Arthur Swanstrom -- were making this little ditty, just so The Flood could flirt with it 90 years later.

Jan. 27, 2011.  Just Because with The Samples Brothers. Our buddy Roger Samples is one of the founding members of The 1937 Flood. From its first days in the 1970s through the mid-1980s, Rog played and sang with us, and his guitar stylings, vocals and song selection have set the standard for The Flood ever since. Even after Roger and his family moved to Kentucky, we stayed in touch and last weekend, on a bright, crisp January day, a bunch of us headed to Mount Sterling for a little reunion with Roger and his brothers, Mack and Ted, who form the legendary Samples Brothers Band. Here's a tune for that grand day, with Mack and Roger doing the vocals and that's Ted on the five-string.

FEBRUARY

Feb. 3, 2011.  Jacob Turns 18. When guitarist Jacob Scarr, the youngest member ever in The Flood's 35-year history, turned 18, it struck us as a pretty darn good reason to celebrate. Our gift to him? Multiple solos on just about every tune we played, including all the solos on this little blues number. And Jacob's gift to us? chasWell, besides years of tasty music every Wednesday night, his mom, P.J., sent over cannoli, making it a pretty sweet evening all the way around!

Feb. 10, 2011.  Randy Brings a Banjo. We never really know what direction our Wednesday night jam sessions will take. It all depends on who shows and what they bring to play. Jazz guitarist Randy Brown has been sitting in with us most Wednesdays for more than a year now, playing great solos on his Gibson L5. But one night, Randy came to the door with his plectrum banjo, a beautiful 50-year-old Vega, and suddenly an evening of quiet folk songs took a decidedly raucous turn.

Feb. 17, 2011.  Joe Fiddles for Norman and Shirley. Norman and Shirley Davis have become our most loyal Wednesday night listeners. Lately they've been little disappointed that one of their favorites -- fiddler Joe Dobbs -- couldn't make the sessions. Well, when Joe blew back in on a warm spring-like Feburary evening, one look at the Davises told you how pleased they were to see and hear him again. And Joe played a couple of special fiddle tunes just for Shirley and Norman.

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Jesse Smith & Randy Brown

Feb. 24, 2011.  How Long, How Long Blues. Here's a tune that was a mainstay for The Flood when the band first started back in the mid-1970s, but until a recent jam session, we'd not played it in literally several decades. It's a blues standard from the 1920s by the great Leroy Carr.

MARCH

March 3, 2011.  Jesse Smith Sittin' In. Joe Dobbs has been knowing guitar player Jesse Smith of Wadsworth, Ohio, near Akron, for five or six years now, but only recently did some of the rest of us got to meet him. On his way to the Cabin Fever Pickin' Party in Hampton, Va., Jesse came with Joe to sit with us and the finger-picking phenom sweetened up everything we played. Here are a couple of samples.

March 10, 2011.  Dinah. Folks who regularly drop in to our Wednesday night jam sessions are privy to a pretty badly kept secret: namely, that we don't really have arrangements for our music. A tune for The Flood is like a pair of comfortable old shoes that's been worn in just right by slipping them and dancing around. Jam session regulars listen as new tunes come into Dougthe mix and get softened up by repetition each week. Here's a case in point -- we've just started playing with this great old 1926 Ethel Waters standard and in this track, you can hear we're still experimenting with it.

March 25, 2011.  Picking with Rog. Roger Samples, one of the founders of The Flood, is a bit under the weather these days, so recently The Flood made a house call. Joe Dobbs and Charlie Bowen hit the road, hooking up with Buddy Griffin and Rog's brother Mack for a few hours of music in Roger's Mount Sterling, Ky., home. During the more than 10 years he played regularly with The Flood, Rog brought in so many tunes for us to do, from beautiful Michael Peter Smith ballads to crazy jugband tunes.

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St. Patrick's Day, 2011

March 31, 2011.
 If You Lose Your Money
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If you've ever been to one of our Wednesday night jam sessions, you know that people -- players and listeners -- are always coming and going. The music evolves, depending on who's on hand at the time that particular tune is being played. Here's a case in point. On this evening, our lead guitarist, Jacob Scarr, had just arrived and tuned up as we were launching into this old Sonny Terry-Brownie McGhee number. Then midway through, harmonicat Sam St. Clair came in, took his seat, grabbed a harp and hopped onboard before the song was done.

APRIL

April 7, 2011.  The 1937 Flood Orchestra. Sometimes we have so many pickers at the jam session, it was more like The 1937 Flood orchestra, with guest artists. On this particular evening, Jim Rumbaugh came in with a belt full of harmonicas. Randy Brown was there with his big beautiful f-cut Gibson and Floodster emeritus Chuck Romine dropped by with that sweet little tenor guitar that we've always loved so much. With all that extra string and wind power, we rocked the neighborhood.joe

April 14, 2011.  One Meatball. From Chesapeake, Ohio, N.F. Brown -- everybody calls him "Nerf" -- first dropped by the jam session a few weeks ago and for most of that evening, he just sat quietly in the corner strumming his Taylor guitar. It was only near the end of the night, after many of the regulars had already gone home, that Nerf offered a tune -- and blew the doors off the place with his big, beautiful voice. Right then and there we told him he had to come back and next time sing earlier so more folks would get to hear him. Here Mr. Brown leads daveThe Flood through a great old Josh White standard. Good times, Nerf -- come back any time, buddy!

April 21, 2011.  Fiddler Susan Staton's First Flood Jam. One of our favorite parts of the weekly jam sessions is getting to sit in with musicians from all over the country who stop in for one of our Wednesday nights. This was the first time for fiddler Susan Staton of the Central-Florida-based Streak of Lean old-time string band. Susan grew up in our area, but went to work for the railroad and transferred to various cities, from Richmond to Jacksonville. But she obviously never forgot her Appalachian roots. Here Susan leads us on a raucous romp through "Soldier Joy." And if you listen closely, you'll hear that Joe Dobbs, the Flood's regular fiddler, switches to mandolin for the occasion. And Dave Peyton does some nice Autoharp work before passing it back to the visiting violinist.

April 28, 2011.  House of the Rising Sun. Sometimes the magic happens at the tail-end of the evening, after the voices are strained and the fingers are tender from all that picking. On this particular track, half the band had already packed gone home. Jacob Scarr and Joe Dobbs were fixing to do same, when our buddy Jim Rumbaugh came in late from the cold and limbered up his harmonicas, so they decided to stick around for a couple more tunes.

MAY

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Coon Sanders, 2011

May 5, 2011. Clarinet Polka. Spending his early years in Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas, fiddler Joe Dobbs was exposed a wide variety of musical styles, from Cajun to country, blues to bluegrass, pop to polka. Forty years ago when he came north and east and helped us form The Flood, Joe brought us a huge song bag. Here's one that was always popular with the sizable German population of Joe's old stomping grounds. And incidentally, this also is a substantial answer to anyone who thinks traditional fiddlers just want to plop down in plain D and stay there. "Clarinet Polka" makes three key changes each time through the melody.

May 12, 2011.  Crazy Words, Crazy Tunes. Every May, The Flood plays one of its favorite gigs of the year. It's the annual Coon Sanders Nighthawks Fans Bash, a gathering here in our hometown of Huntington, West Virginia, that celebrates the early days of jazz and Dixieland. For seven or eight years now, The Flood has come to the bash's Saturday morning session with a "Jug Band Breakfast," an hour or so of bacon and eggs with a liberal side of hokum tunes. In preparation for the day, we focused on our jug band repertoire at a recent jam session.

May 19, 2011.  Stormy Weather. Michelle Walker, the chick singer, can't make it to the jam session every week, but it's always a special night when she arrives early and stays late. This was such a night. Michelle came in out of the rain with a song in mind that we could do as a little anthem for the stormy week we'd had here in the valley.

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At Jacob's Send-off Party

JUNE

June 2, 2011.  A Reunion of New and Old Friends. One of the things we love about our Wednesday nights is that the weekly jam session is a kind of crossroads where old and new friends get to meet. On this night, our old buddy percussionist Dan Trout dropped by on a trip from Athens, Ohio, and got to meet fellow drummer John Smith, who lately was sitting in with us with his brushes and snare. Meanwhile, it was the first jam session for Paula Stewart, a talented member of Jim Rumbaugh's wonderful Huntington Harmonica Club. Here's a tune that features all our visitors.

June 9, 2011.  A Huge Send-Off for Jacob Scarr. Jacob Scarr started sitting in with us when he was 14 years old, and has played lead guitar as a regular member of The Flood for the past three years. Well, now Jacob's 18 and at the end of this summer, he'll be heading off to college in Colorado. Recently, we moved the regular Wednesday night jam session to Jacob's house, where neighbors, family, friends and Flood fans all came together for a huge send-off party in Jacob's honor. And of course, on the morning-after, we had to share a couple of tunes from that special night with our podcast friends.

June 16, 2011.  The Flood Gets Churched with Rob McNurlin. We don't get to see our old buddy Rob McNurlin nearly often enough. But recently the Ashland, Ky., singer-songwriter was home from Nashville and waiting on the doorstep before the jam session even got started. The whole evening was shaped around Rob's tunes, and our favorite part was when we got him into a mood for some of his gospel tunes.

June 23, 2011.  The L&N Don't Stop Here Any More. Doug Chaffin has played with us for more than a dozen years now. Most nights he's busy driving the band on his big upright bass, but recently our buddy Randy Hamilton came by to sit in with his sweet acoustic electric bass, so Doug switched off to other instruments -- and he plays a bunch of them. On this tune, you hear him take the first solo on guitar, but by the end of the song, Doug's switched to his fiddle. Oh, and if you listen closely, you'll hear Randy also singing that high harmony with us on the choruses of this Jean Ritchie composition.

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Roger Samples

June 30, 2011.  Rog Samples' Flood Homecoming. When someone says The Flood is an eclectic string band, they're actually paying tribute to one of our founders, Roger Samples. And whenever Roger stops by to sit in again with his old partners, as he did recently, we're reminded all over again of just how wide and deep our dear friend's musical tastes run, from folk and blues and The Beatles to a sweet old Jimmy Rodgers tune. Here are three tracks from Rog's homecoming.

JULY

July 7, 2011.  Paul Martin Swings by the Jam Session. One of our favorite local bands used to be Sheldon Road, a trio of great singers and pickers named Paul Martin, Randy Hamilton and Kenny Adams. Alas, the group disbanded a few years ago, but we've stayed in touch with all the guys. In fact, Randy Hamilton has been sitting in with us on bass for several weeks now. And last night, Randy's old compatriot Paul Martin dropped in with his sweet mandolin. We even got Paul singing some -- here he leads us through a great old Bob Dylan standard.

July 14, 2011.  The Aussies Have Landed! It's always a good summer when our friends Rod and Judy Jones arrive on one of their regular visits from their native Australia. And now 2011 is officially a good summer. The Aussies have landed again! The Flood first met Rod and Judy, expert players of old-time stringband music of the 1920s and '30s, more than three decades ago, during the couple's first visit to The States. Then, as now, whenever they sit in with us, we all get back to our roots.

July 21, 2011.  A Great Evening with Jesse Smith. Our friend Jesse Smith -- the phenomenal, nationally known fingerpicker -- came down from his home in Wadsworth, Ohio, near Akron, to sit in with us last night for one sweet evening. Jesse makes everything sing -- just listen to his solo near the end of our trot through this 1918 Leo Wood standard. And stayed tuned as he leads the guys on a tear through "Little Rock Getaway."

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Wendell Dobbs

July 28, 2011.  Wendell Dobbs Sits In with His Oughta-be-Brother, Joe. Joe Dobbs and Dr. WendellDobbs are not related, but when you hear Joe's fiddle and Wendell's flute together, you'd swear these Dobbses were brothers. Or at least, they ought to be. Wendell, a music professor at Marshall University and a section leader of the Huntington Symphony Orchestra, is an old friend. Here, he and Joe put their special touch on a beautiful ballad from the British Isles, "The Water is Wide."

AUGUST

Aug. 4, 2011.  Phyllis Dale Finally Parties with The Flood. It was more than 15 years ago when we met singer/pianist Phyllis Dale, the original Red Hot Mama of The Delta Queen riverboat. For more than a decade, every night Phyllis played whatever the crowd wanted when the passengers gathered for the after-hour parties in the steamboat's great old Texas Lounge. Phyllis is an original, a born entertainer and we've been waiting for years to get her up here for one of our Wednesday night jam sessions. Well, finally we had our night, and The Flood's own crowd was enthralled.

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Phyllis Dale

Aug. 10, 2011.  Payday. The Flood has been doing this great old Mississippi John Hurt song, for years now. In fact, it's featured on the first CD we recorded a decade ago this summer. But it is still a favorite at the weekly jam session, where the tune takes on a different personality, depending on who's sitting in that night. On this version, we were especially energized because the great guitarist Jesse Smith was on hand, and his stellar finger-pickin' solos took "Payday" to a whole 'nother level!

Aug. 18, 2011.  She's The Ohio. Not long ago, our dear friend Phyllis Dale came by for a long-overdue visit with The Flood. And on the podcast the next day, we featured a couple of Phyllis's good-time tunes, the kind of numbers with which she used to rock The Delta Queen steamboat, where she was an on-board entertainer for 10 years. But there's another side to Phyllis Dale too -- the ballad singer and songwriter. Here's another track from that evening. This time Phyllis does her wonderful composition, "She's the Ohio." And listen closely -- that's our friend Wendell Dobbs sitting in on flute for the solos.

Aug. 25, 2011.  Mike Smith Comes Home to the Family Flood. We've not seen our great friend, Mike Smith, for months and months. In fact, since our last get-together, Mike went back home to England to visit with family and friends for three weeks or so. But now he's back in the States and recently he came back to his Flood family. Mike's quite a musician. In jacobaddition to playing a lyrical fiddle, he also stops us in our tracks with his a cappella ballads. Here he takes along on Christy Moore's wonderful song, "A Stitch in Time." Oh, and stay tuned when the singing's done, because the lyrics inspire Doug Chaffin to tell us a story.

SEPTEMBER

Sept. 1, 2011.  Randy Brown & Joe Dobbs Jam Like the Old Days. Randy Brown is a jazz guitar player who regularly sits in with us and just classes up the joint! And whenever he starts playing great handfuls of what our Doug Chaffin calls "those Louisville chords," it's fun to watch the jaws drop around the room. Randy has known Joe Dobbs almost as long as The Flood has, with shared musical memories reaching back to the late 1970s. Last night, we got the two of them jamming on a few fiddle-and-guitar duets. These days, the Wednesday night jam sessions have become all the richer now that Randy has become a regular.

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At Home, September 2011

Sept. 8, 2011.  What's in the Soup This Week? What we love about the Wednesday night jam sessions is that each one's different, depending on who's in the mix. It's like a good soup made from whatever ingredients just happen to be in the kitchen at the time. Some Wednesdays are all about blues, others are country or folk. This particular session was a swinging evening, with the main ingredients being Doug Chaffin on bass, Joe Dobbs on fiddle, Jim Rumbaugh on harmonica, Randy Brown on guitar, and the rest of us just reaching out and holding on for the ride…

Sept. 14, 2011.  Sittin' on Top of the World. Pamela, The Flood's manager, occasionally reminds us that the weekly jam session is social as well as musical, a gathering of friends, regular listeners as well as players. We thought of that again as we listened to this track, which seems to capture the feeling of this particular evening. The end of a long, hot summer. Folks coming in happy … happy to be out of the heat, happy to see old friends again, happy to settle into this old Mississippi Sheiks tune that's as comfortable as a soft hat and cool breeze...

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Paul Martin

Sept. 22, 2011.  Ready for the Times to Get Better. Our old buddy Paul Martin doesn't join us on Wednesday night nearly often enough, but when he does, he makes memories. Recently Paul came with his mandolin and sat in for the entire evening, producing smiles all around the room. Here he and his old bandmate Randy Hamilton team up on the 1978 tune, "Ready for the Times to Get Better." The song was originally recorded by country crooner Crystal Gayle, but it's perhaps better known in the folkie world for the Doc Watson version of a few years back.

Sept. 29, 2011.  Don't Get Around Much Anymore. It's always a sweeter evening when The Chick Singer's on hand. We'd not seen our Michelle Walker for a month or more. She's been busy with personal, non-musical business. But last night she rolled into town and cranked Wednesday night up a couple of notches. You know, there are tunes we never play except when Michelle is in the room, like this great old Duke Ellington number.

OCTOBER

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Rob McNurlin

Oct. 6, 2011.  A Two-Harmonica Wednesday. The jam session's always better when there's a harmonica in the room. Twice the fun when there's two of them! One night recently, The Flood's regular harmonicat, Sam St. Clair, was joined by Flood buddy Jim Rumbaugh, happily a frequent visitor to our Wednesday nights. Here we turned Sam and Jim loose on a version of a blues standard that we learned from vinyl: a 1961 Folkways recording by the late giant Eric Von Schmidt.

Oct. 13, 2011.  Rob McNurlin Sings "Blind Willie McTell."Many of us think we know a lot of Bob Dylan tunes. And then we think again of our good friend Rob McNurlin, who REALLY knows a lot of Bob Dylan tunes. One night last summer when Rob was home from Nashville and sitting in with us, our old buddy Zoe Brewer was in the room and she said, "Hey, Rob, do that Willie McTell song!" Rob thought for a moment and then out came this beautiful, little-known song that Dylan wrote in the early 1980s and didn't release until almost a decade later. It was the hit of the evening.

Oct. 20, 2011.  Tom Norman Finally Finds The Flood. Tom Norman has been playing in rock 'n' roll bands around here for decades, occasionally dipping into rockabilly. For instance, back in the '90s, he was on Joe Dobbs's old trio"Music from the Mountains" radio show on West Virginia Public Radio show. Well, Tom finally made it to a Flood jam session and before the evening was out, we had him singing an original.

Oct. 27, 2011.  Cincinnati Rag. Sometimes one tune sets the mood for the whole evening. At a recent jam session, I said to Joe Dobbs, "How about a fiddle tune?"Out came "Cincinnati Rag," a great old Byrd Moore - Clarence Green piece from 1930 that we haven't really done much with in years. Well, it got everybody grinning. And if you listen closely -- that Randy Brown in the middle of things, taking a break on a borrowed guitar. It was just that kind of night.

NOVEMBER

Nov. 3, 2011.  Down by the Sally Gardens. Not long ago, Joe Dobbs added a fifth string to one of his fiddles which gives him a lovely new lower register to play with. Sometimes it's like having another instrument in the band, a cross between a violin and viola. Late in the evening at a recent jam session, Joe demonstrated how this innovation can give a whole new voice to tune like "Down by the Sally Garden," which The Flood's been playing since its first CD more than 10 years ago. Oh, and by the way, that's our buddy Jim Rumbaugh playing that beautiful harmonica solo.

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Mark Keen

Nov. 10, 2011.  Mark Keen's Flooding. Pittsburgh harmonica sensation Mark Keen actually grew up in our town. In fact, he and one of our jam session regulars, guitarist Randy Brown, went all through school together here back in the '70s. Well, Mark was back home in Huntington recently and Randy brought him to his first Flood jam session. We had a ball! Mark limbered up his harps as soon as he hit door and we didn't stop for more than two hours. Now, we understand Mark doesn't get home very often but we hoping that from now when he does, he puts The Flood on his "to-do" list!

Nov. 17, 2011.  Michelle Walker Lights Up the Room. Bassist Randy Hamilton nailed it recently. As he was packing up at the end of the evening, he said, "Boy, there sure is a lot of energy in the room when the chick singer's here. She just radiates it!" So true. Our Michelle Walker can't make it to the jam session every week, but when she does, the room lights up. Here's her last number of the evening, and it's just as powerful as her first two hours earlier.

Nov. 24, 2011.  Thanksgiving Jam 2011. For many around here, Thanksgiving isn't so much about traveling. Instead, we're the home that people come back to for the holiday. On the eve of Thanksgiving 2011, we had our dear friend Jacob Scarr home from college in Colorado. And New Yorker Matt Parker was in the town visiting his grandparents. Well, we had to get these two young guitarists trading licks on an old blues, the way they have on Thanksgiving jam sessions in Michelleamprevious years. Oh, and if you listen closely toward the end of the track, that's jam session newcomer Sonny Sumner with a tasteful little ride on his electric. Yes, it was a guitaroarious evening.

DECEMBER

Dec. 1, 2011.  The House of Rising Sun .... uh .,, Waltz. The jam session seldom starts with the same tune week after week, but often ends with one. After several hours of music, after the voices are spent and fingers are sore, someone's calling for the old folk music chestnut, "The House of the Rising Sun" usually signald that the collective is finished for another week. But that doesn't mean the assembly will play the song the same way each time. Sometimes it's fast and furious, other times it's slow and bluesy. Sometimes it's a serious ballad, other times, new, just for laughs. This night? Well, it wasn't a first -- but it has been a while since we've done it in waltz time…

Dec. 15, 2011.  Pretty Polly. There must be a million versions of the song "Pretty Polly." You can trace it all the way back to the British Isles and ballads like "The Gosport Tragedy" and "The Cruel Ship's Carpenter." We've always played a little fast and loose with the traditional Appalachian melody and lyrics, particularly late at night, as with last night's version when it was the final tune of the jam session.

fromLarryK