Red Prairie Dawn

I came back from Fiddle Tunes a little obsessed with fiddle tunes from the Midwest, which hadn’t really been on my radar until now. I was especially taken with some tunes written by Garry Harrison, who died tragically young last year. I’ve been trying to get ahold of a book he wrote called “Dear Old Illinois”, a compilation of midwestern tunes he and co-author Jo Burgess assembled over a decade or so and sold from 2007 to 2009, as far as I can tell. I understand that there are efforts to get it back in print again next year, and I’ll be really happy if that happens. But what I’d really like to get my hands on is Garry’s album “Red Prairie Dawn”, containing mainly tunes of his own composition.

Update: Cam acquired for me a copy of the Red Prairie Dawn CD in mp3 form a few weeks ago, and it is awesome. And just now I discovered that it’s still available on the Dear Old Illinois site: http://www.pickaway.press/doi/recordings.html#rpd

I’ve only found a few recordings of his tune Red Prairie Dawn online — Sarah Jarosz played it at the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival in 2009, and there are a few videos on YouTube. This one is my favorite:

Someone in the comments of a couple of the YouTube versions says that the piece was composed to be played much faster, but I like it a lot right about there. It’s kind of meditative and ambling at the tempo in that video. I like it so much I learned it from that video and took it to the Dusty Strings jam this afternoon, where it’s probably bad etiquette to play a tune nobody else knows, but if I play it enough, eventually other people will know it, right?

We had some trouble figuring out the chords on the fly, so I thought I’d sit down and figure them out, then post them here and come back later with sheet music for the melody once I’ve got it transcribed.

So here are the chords as I hear them:

4/4
A Part - ||:G   |C   |G   |D   |G   |C   |C   |D G :||
B Part - ||:Em  |C   |G   |D   |Em  |C   |G   |D G :||

There’s a little bass run that fits in the last two measures of either part:

|C E |DF#G |

NB: I’m pretty sure this isn’t what they’re playing in the video above; it’s just how I hear it in my head.

I’ll post sheet music for the melody later; I just wanted to get the chords down while I was thinking of it.

Update, 2017: Dear Old Illinois web siteBookThe is back online, and the book and CD set  are available through CDBaby: Book, 3-CD set, disc 1 digital, disc 2 digital, disc 3 digital

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5 comments on “Red Prairie Dawn
  1. Jacque K says:

    Looking forward to “red Prairie Dawn” melody when you get it worked out! Thanks

  2. Tuco says:

    I hear a rooster crowing in that first phrase of the A part. Buzz is that Dear Old Illinois, book and 3 CD set, will be back in circulation soon at CD Baby. Keep an eye on dearoldillinois.us for updates on that. The dot-com version of the domain lapsed upon Garry Harrison’s untimely death in 2012.

  3. Josh says:

    Awesome! I’ve been on the mailing list since the end of June; I’ll keep a close eye on the new site. Thanks!

  4. Murph says:

    Such a great tune whether played slow or fast! Your chords look great though there’s a couple things I’d like to mention about them:
    On the A part with Garry’s version of it I’m distinctly hearing an Em where you have the first D that comes up and also hear it going back to the G after the second C, instead of holding the C for two measures.
    A Part – ||:G |C |G |Em |G |C |G |D G :||

    Here’s the interesting thing to me… the chords you have for the B part are how it’s usually played in my neck of the woods (Colorado) and I personally prefer those chords but in Garry’s recording there is no C, it’s just two measures of G instead.
    B Part – ||:Em |G |G |D |Em |G |G |D G :||

    Just my two cents since I love these conversations. Ultimately, flexible harmony is what I enjoy most. Cheers!

  5. Josh says:

    Huh, I just had another listen, and I’m pretty sure you’re right about what’s on the original recording. Interesting! I guess it’s no surprise that we hear what we expect to hear sometimes.

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