Mandolin Picking Tunes—Beautiful American Airs & Ballads
I’m going to have to start this review on a personal note. The author of this book was a good friend of mine, who I worked with for twenty years in my job as the editor and publisher of Flatpicking Guitar Magazine. I received this book in the mail from Mel Bay Publications and, about a week later, I heard the news that Dix Bruce had passed away.
Dix Bruce was a wonderfully friendly individual who told great stories, was very passionate about music, and extremely knowledgeable across numerous genres of music about all things guitar and mandolin related. I always found that the arrangements he contributed to Flatpicking Guitar Magazine, and all of the other dozens of instructional books and videos that he produced over the years, were tasteful, well-thought-out, and accessible. Those qualities are evident in this new book as well.
I had many occasions to jam with Dix over the past twenty-five years and one of the most amazing things about him was how many instrumental tunes and songs that he knew by heart. It seemed as though you could pull out nearly any tune from the bluegrass, blues, folk, rock, swing, or jazz genres, and Dix would know the melody and the words. So, it seems fitting that his final book project covers a wide range of American songs.
In this book you will find mandolin arrangements for twenty-six well known and loved songs from a wide-ranging American songbook, such as “Hard Times Come Again No More,” “When Johnny Comes Marching Home,” “I Never Will Mary,” “Aura Lee,” “All the Pretty Horses,” “America,” “Beautiful Dreamer,” “The Wayfaring Stranger,” “Down in The Willow Garden,” “John Henry,” “Home Sweet Home,” “Shady Grove,” “Shenandoah,” “Precious Memories” and more.
While some of these tunes are probably not the first to show up at a bluegrass jam, if friends or family ask you to play your mandolin for them, the majority of these melodies may certainly be familiar to them.
Technically, Bruce arranges these tunes using a variety of standard mandolin skills, including simple single note expressions, double stops, tremolo, down-up eighth note picking, crosspicking and chord melody style playing. Many of the arrangements are presented such that they do not require accompaniment.
In addition to presenting all of the songs in standard music notation and mandolin tablature (with chords included above the standard notation staff), Bruce offers performance notes for every song. Downloadable audio tracks are also provided.
This excellent book proves a fitting end to the long music career of a man who was passionate about playing and teaching American acoustic music. Dix Bruce, and his talent as a teacher and educator, will be missed.