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In doing my bit of background research to explore the meaning of this tune’s title, I found the best available explanation to have been written by none other than my fellow Georgia Jay mate Justin Manglitz, a man with some experience in the realm of animal husbandry. From a thread back in 2012 on the Banjo Hangout:
“In the antebellum South, and later in some locales, livestock were not kept in enclosures (i.e. paddocks, pastures) but were allowed to roam around freely to eat whatever they could wherever they could get it. People fenced the areas they wanted to keep stock OUT of rather than IN. this applied to both hogs and cattle (and sheep and goat somewhat less commonly). A few times a year folks would round up the animals and notch their ears or brand the young ones, pen them for butcher, or drive them to market. Yearlings in this context specifically refers to young cattle about a year old, a prime time to sale them or butcher them. Drovers of local men would drive huge herds of young cattle or hogs in masse to be separated later, mainly by ear notches, at market. It could be many hundreds of animals, all roiling around not too happy with the situation at all.”
This is a quirky little tune, for sure.
It’s crooked, for starters, with an extra measure in the A part. Perhaps that’s a nod to the organized chaos of herding a mass of young cattle.
And then there’s the melodic “pause” that occurs in the 3rd and 4th measure of the B part, where the fiddle usually just plays a rhythmic “vamp” of sorts. I consider these two measures to be a kind of a free-for-all for the banjoist – with no melody to adhere to, you have free reign to do anything that sounds good on top of an A chord!
Some of you may note that the B part of this tune and the B part of “Cricket on the Hearth,” a tune common in bluegrass circles, are virtually identical. That’s because they are.
And that is a guitar track you hear in the background, as I thought it made a nice addition to this tune.
Hell Amongst the Yearlings
aDADE tuning, Brainjo level 3-4
Notes on the Tab
Notes in parentheses are “skip” notes. To learn more about these, check out my video lesson on the subject.
For more on reading tabs in general, check out this complete guide to reading banjo tabs.
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