As I Roved Out


Song starts at 0:40 seconds.

edited from and

Sam Amidon, from Brattleboro, VT, approaches old time music from a northern perpective.

Shape-note singing is a communal form of music that began in New England 200 years ago, mostly from townsfolk without any musical training. It’s music that surrounded Amidon during his childhood in Vermont.

“These are some of the melodies that are the deepest-seated for me,” Amidon says. “That was the world I was born into. And in terms of the shape-note music being a social tradition, it was something that happened, yeah, once a month in our town. You know, it would move to different people’s houses, sometimes ours. It was a potluck on a Saturday afternoon.”

Now, in a new album titled Bright Sunny South, Amidon reimagines the songs his parents sang. Amidon says he takes an old tune that gets stuck in his head and ends up adding something new.

Amidon: I learned “As I Roved Out”  from Bruce Greene, and his wife Loy McWhirter. Bruce is a fiddle player who lives in North Carolina, and he went around eastern Kentucky in the early ’70s learning fiddle from guys who were 80 and 90 years old, who had learned their tunes from Confederate veterans and ex-slaves. He found — almost by accident — this whole swath of fiddle players that other folklorists had missed. Bruce and Loy are very deep musicians, and they have an album of a cappella ballads called Come Near My Love. It’s somewhere between Alan Lomax, John and Yoko, and Albert Ayler. It’s only their two voices, but the harmonies are really weird and beautiful, and they sing these seven or 10 verse ballads — really dark, long, strange murder ballads.


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