Episode #15   Dusty Rider

Key:  G Modal

Tuning:  G Modal   (gDGCD)*


*note: With a fiddler, this tune would likely be played in the key of A, at which point you would want to capo on the 2nd fret and raise your 5th string to an A note.

In this latest Mess Around episode, Dusty Rider (The Railsplitters) walks me through his killer melodic clawhammer version of Tater Patch.

Dusty is a super-talented multi-instrumentalist & songwriter who’s probably most well known for his 3 finger banjo playing but, as you’ll see in this here vid, he’s a pretty fiery clawhammer player, too!

I especially like how he ports a lot of his favorite melodic 3 finger style licks over to his clawhammer playing.

Hope you enjoy this video. Be sure to grab your banjo and follow along with the lesson as there are a lot of juicy ideas to absorb from it.

Tab provided below!



Tater Patch – Tablature


Episode #14 Sparrow

Episode #14 features special musical guest, Sparrow.

Sparrow is a songwriter, clawhammer banjoist and singer best known for her work with her band, The Resonant Rogues.

In this session, we sat down and talked banjos, songwriting and then some.

Of course the highlight of this hangout is the beautiful original number that Sparrow performs and teaches me.

I forgot to get the name of this song from her during the session so I’ll have to come back here and update the page once I find out that little detail.

Until then, I’m just calling this one ‘Sparrow’s Song’.

It’s a dandy.  I’ve included the tab and lyrics here and there’s a measure by measure instructional video on the way…!


Sparrow’s Song – Tablature

Sparrow’s Song – Lyrics

To learn more about Sparrow, her songwriting and  her musical endeavors, check out the Resonant Rogues website:   The Resonant Rogues

 Episode #13   Uma Peters

Episode #13 features special musical guest, Uma Peters.

Uma is a performing clawhammer banjoist and singer best known for her musical collaborations with her brother, Giri Peters.

Uma was first inspired to pick up the banjo after hearing Rhiannon Giddens, who she now counts among her notable mentors and teachers.

At the time of the making of this video, Uma had only been studying the banjo for about three years but the raw talent and passion can already be seen to shine through in her playing.

In this session, Uma guides me through her version of Rebel Raid as I do my best to keep up.

Uma learned Rebel Raid from Adam Hurt.   Adam adapted  this melody to banjo from W.H. Stepp’s original fiddle recording of the tune.

To learn more about Uma and her musical endeavors, check out the Giri and Uma Peters website:   Giri and Uma Peters dot Com

Rebel Raid – Lesson Video

Tuning – “F Tuning”   (fDGCD)

Key – G

Capo – 2nd Fret

5th String Tuning – g

Tablature – Rebel Raid


 Episode #12   Chris Coole

Episode #12 features special musical guest, Chris Coole.

Chris is a clawhammer banjoist, guitarist, singer, songwriter and producer.  He’s played and recorded with Sylvia Tyson, Natalie MacMaster, John Reishman, April Verch and David Francey just to name a few.

Coole’s precision and skill on the instrument has made him a household name among clawhammer banjo enthusiast around the world.

In this session, Chris guides me through his interpretation of the catchy fiddle tune, Cleveland Marching to the White House.

To learn more about Chris and his musical endeavors, check out his website:   ChrisCoole.com

Cleveland Marching to the White House – Lesson Video

Tuning – “F Tuning”   (fDGCD)

Key – F

Capo – n/a

Tablature – Cleveland Marching to the White House


 Episode #11   Laurel Premo

Episode #11 features special musical guest, Laurel Premo.

Laurel is an artist, clawhammer banjo player, fiddler and vocalist.  She is, perhaps, most well-known as being one half of the contemporary folk duo, Red Tail Ring.

She’s played her special brand of new and old time folk music all across the United States, Denmark, Germany and Sweden.

In this session, Lauren guides me through her interpretation of Edden Hammon’s, Washington’s March.

To learn more about Lauren and her music, check out her website:   LaurenPremo.com

To learn more about Red Tail Ring:   RedTailRing.com

Washington’s March – Lesson Video

Tuning – Double C   (gCGCD)

Key – D

Capo – 2nd        (5th string tuned up to an A)

Tablature – Washington’s March

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Episode #10   Eli Smith


Episode #10 features Brooklyn-based musician and promoter, Eli Smith.

Eli Smith is a multi-instrumentalist, performer, educator, promoter and all around great guy. He’s a founding member of the “Downhill Strugglers“, creator and curator of the Brooklyn Folk Festival and author of the banjo instructional book, “Smith’s Banjo Primer“.

In this session, Eli guides me through his interpretation of Burnett and Rutherford’s, Ladies on a Steamboat.

To learn more about Eli’s band, check out their website:   DownhillStrugglers.com



Ladies on a Steamboat – Lesson Video

Tuning – Open G   (gDGBD)

Key – G

Capo – n/a

Tablature – Ladies on a Steamboat


Episode #9   Aaron Jonah Lewis

Episode #9 features fiddle and banjo extraordinaire, Aaron Jonah Lewis.

Wanna know more about Aaron?  Well, here’s an excerpt from his bio:

“Aaron Jonah Lewis is a multi-instrumentalist, performer and educator. He has won awards at the Clifftop Appalachian String Band Festival, including First Place Neotraditional Band in 2008 and 2015, and at the Galax Old Fiddlers Convention, including First Place Bluegrass Fiddle in 2007, and he has performed at major festivals from the US to the UK and from Italy to Finland.

Lewis has appeared on dozens of recordings from bluegrass and old time to swing jazz, modern experimental and Turkish classical music projects. He has taught workshops at the the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow and at the English Folk Dance and Song Society in London. He also plays and teaches banjo, mandolin, guitar, and bass and is currently based in Detroit.”

In the session, Aaron guides me through his version of Cumberland Gap.

To learn more about Aaron Jonah Lewis, check out his website:   AaronJonahLewis.com

Cumberland Gap – Lesson Video

Tuning – Cumberland Gap Tuning   (fDGCD)

Key – F

Capo – n/a

Tablature – Cumberland Gap


 Episode #8   Dango Rose

Episode #8 features my good pal (and former band mate), Dango Rose.

Dango is a multi-instrumentalist, performer and songwriter best known as the bassist for Elephant Revival. He’s also an accomplished clawhammer player.

Dango was gracious enough to sit down with me before a recent performance at the Sheldon Concert Hall here in St. Louis, Missouri.

In the session, Dango walks me through an original tune (The 4th of July) AND an original song (Winter’s Holiday).

To learn more about Dango Rose, check out his website:   DangoRose.com


4th of July/Winter’s Holiday – Lesson Video

Tuning – Double C  (gCGCD)

Key – C

Capo – n/a

Tablature – The 4th of July/Winter’s Holiday

Lyrics – The 4th of July/Winter’s Holiday


 Episode #7   Hubby Jenkins

Episode #7 features the great Hubby Jenkins.

Hubby is probably best known as a member of the Carolina Chocolate Drops but he’s also an accomplished solo performer.

In this session, Hubby walks me through his version of Uncle Dave Macon’s Cumberland Mountain Deer Chase.

To learn more about Hubby Jenkins, check out his website:   HubbyJenkins.com


Cumberland Mountain Deer Chase – Lesson Video

Tuning – Drop C  (gCGBD)

Key – C

Capo – n/a

Tablature – Cumberland Mountain Deer Chase    




 Episode #6   Mike Oberst

Episode #6 features the great Mike Oberst.

Mike is best known for his role as a singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist in the Cincinnati-based stringband, The Tillers.

In this session, Oberst breaks down his wonderful version of Boatman Dance as learned from the his friend and mentor Russ Childers of the Rabbit Hash Stringband.

To learn more about Mike Oberst, check out his website:   MikeOberst.com   


Mike Oberst – Lesson Video

Tuning – Open G  (gDGBD)

Key – G

Capo – n/a

Tablature – Boatman Dance    



 Episode #5   Billy Strings

It’s time for another fine clawhammer moment brought to you by the Five String Mess Around video series ! This session features my friend Billy Strings.

Billy is best known as a flat picking phenom who’s been tearing up the national acoustic scene for the last few years but, unbeknownst to most folks, he’s also an impressive clawhammer banjo player.

In this session, Mr. Strings teaches me a wonderful version of Shout Little Lulie as learned from the playing of the legendary Ralph Stanley.

To learn more about Billy Strings, check out his website:   BillyStrings.com     


Shout Little Lulie – Lesson Video

Tuning – Double C  (gCGCD)

Key – C

Capo – n/a

Tablature – Shout Little Lulie     



 Episode #4   Sean Geil

Five String Mess Around is back with more banjo shenanigans!

This session features my ole pal Sean Geil.  Sean is probably best known as a singer, songwriter, guitarist and banjo player in the Cincinnati string band, The Tillers.

We were both performing at the John Hartford Memorial Festival and, luckily, we managed to find a dry cabin and a few minutes in between sets to sit down and do some banjo nerdin’.

In this session, Geil teaches me a wonderful version of Yew Piney Mountain that he learned from Kentucky fiddler, Uncle Mike Carr. Hope you enjoy it!

Correction: I mention during one of the videos that Uncle Mike Carr learned this version from Lester McCumber but I was mistaken…Sean informs me that he learned it from Harold Hausenfluck.

To learn more about Sean and The Tillers, check out their website:   The-Tillers.com      


Yew Piney Mountain – Lesson Video

Tuning – Sawmill  (gDGCD)

Key – A modal

Capo – 2nd fret   (5th string tuned up to an “a”)

Tablature – Yew Piney Mountain     


Note: If, after studying the lesson video, you’re still a bit confused as to the arrangement of the tune, here’s a textual breakdown of the tune’s structure:

Play the A part twice Play the first 5 measures of the B part Play the A part twice Play the entire B part                              rinse, repeat…




 Episode #3   Clarke Wyatt

Five String Mess Around soldiers on with yet another episode. This one features none other than Clarke Wyatt.  Clarke is one half of the neo old time duo, Betse & Clarke. From Betse &  Clarkes’s bio:

Their music is familiar… and totally different; a fiddle and banjo duo with a sense of adventure. Old time music celebrated alongside inventive new compositions: a passion for the depth of tradition and a look to the future of folk.

Clarke’s primary banjo style is a unique, three finger style but he has recently been dabbling in the clawhammer realm and had this wonderful arrangement to share with us. Follow along with the video as I struggle through Quail is a Pretty Bird, a beautiful modal fiddle ditty that is a relative of the popular Sandy Boys tune.

To learn more about Clarke and his duo, check out their website:   BetseandClarke.com

Note: I had an especially difficult time, technically speaking, with the production of this episode. After countless hours of editing, re-editing, and troubleshooting I nearly gave up and scrapped this vid.  BUT, ultimately, I persevered, made a few compromises and ended up with a usable episode for y’all.  I hope you enjoy it and please excuse the production quirks…including the fact that my left hand is rarely in the frame…better for ear training!     For a more in-depth lesson complete with tablature and a measure-by-measure breakdown, watch the video below:

Quail is a Pretty Bird – Lesson Video

Tablature – Quail is a Pretty Bird    

*note: To download, right click the link above and choose “download linked file”.   




 Episode #2   Joe Seamons

Five String Mess Around continues on with our latest featured guest, Joe Seamons.  Joe is one half of the songster duo, Ben Hunter & Joe Seamons. From Joe & Ben’s bio:

Ben and Joe have […] found an affinity in the many branches that tied into the blues and created this duo as a way to explore these branches.  Their musical kinship and sense of joy in interpreting this music is evident and was the basis of an invitation by Dom Flemons (formerly of the Carolina Chocolate Drops) to tour and record for his album Prospect Hill. Last year, they launched an ongoing documentary film project to explore modern day music along the Mississippi River. Rather than thinking of their music as blues, it’s best to situate Ben and Joe as American songsters. A songster traditionally refers to an artist whose repertoire is much broader than the old blues, and spans many of the genres that Ben and Joe Inhabit.

Follow along with the video as Joe walks me through Field Sparrow, a wonderfully catchy fiddle tune that he learned from, Frank Maloy of Tifton, Georgia.

To learn more about Joe and his duo, check out their website:   BenJoeMusic.com 

For a more in-depth lesson complete with tablature and a measure-by-measure breakdown, watch the video below:

Field Sparrow – Lesson Video

Tablature – Field Sparrow

*note: To download, right click the link above and choose “download linked file”.


Episode #1   J.D. Wilkes

Five String Mess Around launches rather auspiciously with featured guest, J.D. Wilkes. If you don’t already know about J.D., I’ll initiate you with a snippet from the bio on his website:

JD Wilkes is an American musician, visual artist, author, filmmaker and self-proclaimed “southern surrealist”.  He is an accomplished multi-instrumentalist (notably on harmonica and banjo), having recorded with such artists as Merle Haggard, John Carter Cash, Mike Patton, and Hank Williams III. Wilkes’ latest solo album Cattle in the Cane (Arkam Records, January 2015) includes his own renditions of traditional tunes (mostly old-time mountain music), with performances by elder Kentucky fiddler Charlie Stamper (the brother of Art Stamper) on many of the tracks. In the last two years, Wilkes has continued to develop his solo project, having toured with Charlie Parr and The Tillers, as well as performing at the 2015 Winnipeg Folk Festival.

Follow along with the video as J.D. walks me through The Old Spinning Wheel, an old piano roll tune he learned from the legendary Kentucky banjoist, Lee “Boy” Sexton.

To learn more about J.D., check out his website:   JDWilkes.com

For a more in-depth lesson complete with tablature and a measure-by-measure breakdown, watch the video below:

The Old Spinning Wheel – Lesson Video

Tablature – The Old Spinning Wheel 


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