The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #138630   Message #3173893
Posted By: GUEST,Ian Robb
21-Jun-11 - 11:06 AM
Thread Name: John Barleycorn deconstructed - Finest Kind
Subject: RE: John Barleycorn deconstructed
There's some lovely irony in these dissections, as one of the reasons my bandmate Shelley Posen wrote this song was to avoid boring people with the dry technicalities of what we do. Better just to show them, he thought! From my own relatively musically illiterate viewpoint, I hear a couple of things in most English-sounding harmony. One is a "melodic" bass line, which is attractive and flowing even when sung on its own. Another is a relative lack of parallel harmony, in which all parts go up and down more or less together, adjusting all the time to fit the chord. This is the approach taken to produce the classic, layered, wonderfully tight bluegrass harmony sound. In Finest Kind's case, the bass and lead lines on English-style songs sometimes even overlap, with the bass line going above the tenor lead. Ann Downey's third (alto) part goes wherever needed to complete the chord or produce tension or dissonance, and--sung on its own--is often seriously weird. We mostly resist any temptation to be parallel on these songs. I think it's fair to say that we take some new world and new music liberties with traditional English song, but I think we do pay appropriate homage to that vaguely defined old English "churchy" tradition of harmony.