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Goodbye Old Paint

from by Jayme Stone

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This rendition of “Goodbye, Old Paint” perfectly illustrates the folk process. That is, the way in which songs and stories are transformed as they’re transmitted fromperson to person and generation to generation. In 1885, at the age of seven, fiddler Jess Morris learned to sing and play “Goodbye, Old Paint” on the jew’s harp from Charley Willis, a black cowboy and former slave. Morris went on to recast the song on the fiddle, which he set in the unusual tuning of DADD. John Lomax was so taken with Jess’ inimitable arrangement that he recorded him for the Library of Congress in 1942.
Fast-forward to New York, 1948, where Alan invited singer Vera Hall to perform at
Columbia University. This marked the only time she left her home state of Alabama.
While staying on in Alan’s Greenwich Village apartment, she recorded songs and
interviews, enough to fill sixteen reels of magnetic tape. Appreciating her remarkable
ear and vocal virtuosity, Alan tested her abilities by singing songs she’d never heard
to see how well she could hum them back. Among these was “Goodbye, Old Paint,”
which Vera reflected back in her singular and soulful way.6 It was this recording that
inspired Margaret, some sixty-five years later, to reshape the harmony according to
her sensibilities, highlighting the lyric’s underlying sadness. Tim’s signature singing
and verse selection brought the song full circle. As Ol’ Jess himself said, “Most every
cowpoke who sang it added something.”


from Jayme Stone's Lomax Project, released March 3, 2015
Tim O’Brien (voice, mandolin), Margaret Glaspy (voice, guitar), Moira Smiley (accordion),
Greg Garrison (bass), Jayme Stone (banjo)


tags: folk world Denver


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