Tag Archives: Paint Branch Ramblers

In the darkest depths of Mordor…

…and Maryland, the Paint Branch Ramblers keep on rambling.

Though secretly sad that the band didn’t collapse entirely in my absences, I am at least outwardly delighted to see them all up and running again – and with new material (I’ll have to find out what “Your Cheating Heart or Here” means).

And I’m glad to see that someone, somewhere – anywhere – was playing the “Lawson Family Murder” this Christmas.

Here’s a clip featuring a clipped version of last year’s Ramblers, playing in sub-freezing weather on the ground of a one-time CCC camp in Masten, Lycoming County, Pennsylvania. Left to right, that’s Peter Jensen, Mike Paul, and Ryan Jerving.

Hanukkah with the Viper pt. 7

You’ve had a lot of latke so far this week (see the posts for December 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, and 26). But by now you’re asking: where are the recordings of the Paint Branch Ramblers playing “Heyse Latke Kalte Latke” in rehearsal?

Okay, so maybe you aren’t asking. But it’s the 7th night of Hanukkah and, as you know, the quality of the gifts gets a little thin about this time.

And in that tradition, I present you our rehearsal from November 28, 2008.


In some ways, I like this better than the live recording – the sound quality is better, for one thing, because we’re all just standing around a single microphone rather than going through a P.A. system. By all I mean: me, cumbus; Peter Jensen, violin; Mike Paul and Bob Smith, our one-syllable-named guitarists; and Susan Johnson, autoharp and washboard.

I also like the tempo, and my cumbus tag is a little cleaner. You’ll notice we only play through “Jerusalem Ridge” once – that’s sometimes how we do it.

And tomorrow night, the last Hanukkah post of 2008.

The Fillmore & Buchanan March

In belated honor of Presidents Day, 2008, here’s a song written in tribute to two of our forgotten, and worst, presidents. It’s called “The Fillmore & Buchanan March” and it goes like this:

This piece was written for the Paint Branch Blue Boys, first under the title “The House of James March,” after the home to which bassist James Key so generously invites the lot of us to practice most Monday nights. I found myself playing the tune on the mandolin while attempting to come to terms with “Under the Double Eagle” (which likewise shifts between keys) and the mandolin more generally. It is my virgin tunesmithing effort on the mandolin.

The piece was renamed “The Fillmore & Buchanan March” in the midst of all the 2008 Presidents Day excitement, as a way of remembering the unelected signer of the Fugitive Slave Act and failed Know Nothing candidate, Millard Fillmore, and along with him, James Buchanan, the “doughface” bachelor president whose bronze and granite memorial residing near the Southeast corner of Washington, D.C.’s Meridian Hill Park is among the least-visited and least-well-loved statues in our nation’s Capital. I have contributed information on this memorial to the Wikipedia entry on Buchanan (and really should get around to uploading a photograph of it as well).


If you’d like to play along with the recording above (which you can also download here), the chord progression follows the basic march/polka/ragtime formula (e.g., “Under the Double Eagle,” “Roll Out the Barrel,” “Tiger Rag”), though it shifts between the keys of C and G. Each slash represents a 2/4 measure.

C / / /
C / G7 /
G7 / / /
G7 / C G7
C / / /
C C7 F /
F / C D7
G7 / C /

G / / /
G / D7 /
D7 / / /
A7 / D7 /
G / / /
G G7 C /
C / G A7
D7 / G /

If you’d like to play the melody, you can download a PDF of my handwritten manuscript for it. The recording was made first (recorded using the built-in microphone of my Dell laptop), as a scratch track for band reference. The written version simplifies the rhythm for adaptation for other instruments, and improves somewhat on the turnarounds you’ll hear in the recording.