“Eric is great at taking a well-known tune from an unexpected angle and completely reworking it…He can also pay respect to a master without losing his individuality…When it comes to guitar playing, arranging, and composing, there is no doubt about it, if they send some fingerpicking astronaut on one of those 300 year voyages that only takes ten years out of his life, he will find on his return--if he finds anything at all-- that guitarists are still listening to Eric’s music.” – Duck Baker
“Eric has created some moments of pure magic and real transcendence on his recordings--the kind where I’m not even sure why the music hits me so deeply but it indubitably does. He has a discernible style and approach to the instrument that I really admire and respect.” – Stephen Bennett
Eric Lugosch is one of the most creative heads of the American acoustic guitar scene. Like his colleague Duck Baker – who is also one of his greatest fans – he very skillfully combines technical know-how with musical expressiveness.
Lugosch is a fellow who tinkers, who consistently seeks musical depth in his arrangements and whose artistic concept is marked by both respect of tradition as well as uncompromising originality. His spectrum of color embraces the entire range of American music, be that ragtime, blues, R&B or jazz.
The hallmark of this American fingerstylist consists of an elegant, vigorous tone and a twinkling humor while playing, that inevitably peers charmingly through his music. Lugosch, who hails from Philadelphia, chalked up his first musical experience as a singer in the "Philadelphia Boys Choir," – an experience that continues to echo in him to this day:
"I began listening to music with an ear for the orchestral. Motifs and lines are still central elements in my way of composing." At the age of twelve he started secretly practicing on his brother's guitar and delved into the pickings of Rev. Gary Davis and Mississippi John Hurt "For me, it was solo guitar right from the start", Lugosch recalls.
"I experimented a great deal, worked out lines, and was always on the lookout for the orchestral sound of the instrument." He seems to have found it, even winning the 1984 "National Fingerpicking Championship."
Eric Lugosch lives in Evanston, Illinois, where he writes, teaches and continues developing his own personal vision of fingerstyle guitar beyond all clichés.
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I know of only one recording of this famous tune from the three CD set "Demons and Angels". It has an improvised sound that was captured outside of the studio setting. Halfway through his recording, Gary Davis breaks rhythm and says "I heard this way back as a little kid" as he continues to play. Davis loved all types of music, and one of his favorite composers was John Phillips Sousa, whose orchestra played this hit from 1897 written by Kerry Mills.
I consider this to be one of Davis's "novelty pieces" and a favorite of my students to learn and play. Like a traditional rag, there are three sections in my arrangement. The introduction evokes the mood and setting of an outdoor revival meeting, and then resurfaces several times, tying it all together. You will be challenged but find that the licks in this piece are accessible.
Probably one of the most played and recorded pieces of Reverend Gary Davis, and is what I would consider "the gateway tune" for first timers learning Gary Davis's repertoire. Gary Davis had multiple versions of this song - vocal, waltz, two step, and other versions that I still stumble across that I had never heard before. Davis had a few different stories about where the piece came from, the common thread being that it came from his childhood in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
I remind my students that harmonically the tune is very simple - three chords: C, G, and F. If you keep this in mind, you'll find that each variation sticks
to the same structure and explores different right-hand techniques and will open up your eyes to movable chord shapes and inversions. Hopefully it
will give you a good foundation to invent your own variations.
I first heard this tune performed by Taj Mahal on the banjo at the Philadelphia Folk Festival. Most people think of this as a fiddle dance tune, but it is also credited as a cakewalk to Tin Pan Alley composer Harry Von Tilzer in 1899. It's considered a foundational tune in ragtime music.
I took this well-known tune and arranged and reworked it from an unexpected angle. My arrangement is presented with a slippery Professor Longhair bass line, and is, according to Duck Baker, "considered a classic in picking circles". It has two sections - A & B - with two variations and a rhythmical trick at the end called a hemiola. You will hear the independent Cajun bass line throughout the piece supporting the melody and some movable licks that can be played in three different chord changes. This lesson highlights and explores how a melody can be presented and given a new vision when pairing it with a different style of music...in this case, Cajun music. My arrangement highlights that catchy independent bass line with a lot of forward drive and will help you develop an independent right-hand thumb, and with its variations, help you with your fluency up and down the neck.
Many people know this song as "The Battle of New Orleans", which was a hit in 1959 made famous by Johnny Horton. Jimmy Driftwood wrote the words in
1958, but the song started off as an instrumental called "The Eighth of January" written in 1815 presumably by a soldier who was fortunate enough
to have survived the battle. The Eighth of January is considered a fiddle dance tune standard and has two sections - A & B - with their variations.
I chose to frame my arrangement as a slow and solemn ballad. In this arrangement I focus on the use of diatonic and chromatic bass lines to support
the melody and also use the right hand with a relaxed "two" feel, by playing half notes in the bass as opposed to quarter notes. This gives more
room for the melody to stand out and helps develop your right-hand thumb's independence. It has been a favorite lesson for my students over the
years. It is a good platform to explore dynamics in your playing as well as moving bass lines.
This has always been my favorite Gary Davis composition. When I was a child, not only did I love the song, but I thought it had the greatest title!
My interpretation is derived from the Rev's first recording of this piece on the Melotone label in 1936. In this version, Gary Davis had a haunting
phrase that he used throughout his performance. My arrangement was inspired from this one lick and I open up with it, and in the end, I reiterate
it in different octaves as homage to this beautiful song. The first time through I pay heed to Gary Davis's way of playing it and then break away
from tradition with my own ideas. You will see how you can emulate the words of the verse in the arrangement.
Reverend Gary Davis made his recording of this song at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965. It's the only recording I know of this piece. Davis was obsessed with whether or not he'd make it into heaven upon his death, and you can actually hear him crying while singing it in concert.
I took this into mind when I put this arrangement together. I take great liberties with my handling of this song and try to capture his concerns and feelings with choir-like counterpoint and some jazzier chord forms. The arrangement has four variations and, after the first two variations, I completely break away from the tune and go into a middle section I call "his ascension into heaven".
This arrangement captures the soul and spirit of Gary Davis's live performance. It is a great platform to work on the dynamics and tone of the right hand, and I hope it might inspire you to invent your own interpretations.
This is truly a tour de force piece for the Gary Davis lover. No one is quite sure where this piece originates, beyond the fact that it is a hymn. Many people think it's a derivative of the song "We Shall Overcome", which was discovered in a miner's journal publication from 1909, and was described as an "interracial unionism" song to be sung together at the beginning of meetings by white and black miners. Many artists have recorded this piece... Jorma Kaukonen, Pete Seeger, Peter Paul and Mary come to mind, but my favorite, and I believe the most powerful version is Gary Davis's. This arrangement is challenging and showcases right-hand techniques, the lexicon of four finger chord shapes and choir-like voicings that hallmark the Rev's sound.
This tune was the only instrumental written by the late Pete Seeger. It has become a stock piece of repertoire for thousands of budding fingerstyle guitarists and recorded and is performed regularly by guitarists like Leo Kottke and myself. I think it's a real testament to Seeger's genius that his only instrumental has had such an influence on the fingerstyle community.
This tune, played by Seeger in a calypso style, reflects his important but little known love and advancement of Trinidadian steel drums in American folk music. The arrangement is meant to be played slowly with an easy-going calypso bass line. It has been a favorite of students who first venture into pieces with independent bass lines and counterpoint.
The American composer Henry Clay Work wrote this infectious Civil War melody with some contemporary twists in 1866. One distinction about this song is that it was the first to sell one million copies of sheet music. An interesting anecdote related to the song is that it was the first known publicized account of the expression "earworm", coined by General William T. Sherman, whose march through Georgia the song was written about, due to the fact that he couldn't get the melody out of his head!
I arranged this piece in open D tuning (D A D F# A D) which really captures the old-time parade feeling of this song. The arrangement has a lot of syncopation and counterpoint, and also highlights the use of diatonic bass lines to support the melody, right hand cross picking, and also a cool false ending. It is a tour de force and a great study for guitarists exploring open tunings.
"Oh, Glory, How Happy I Am" is a staple of all lovers and students of Reverend Gary Davis's guitar. Most people sing this song, but I chose to do it
as an instrumental. I take a slow and solemn approach. The first pass through I am faithful to Davis's way of playing this song, and then, as I
do with the other arrangements in this series, I break away from the traditional with my own ideas to capture the heart and soul of the piece.
You will see how I try and model the spoken words of the verse and translate them into variations in two octaves, which is what emulates the presence
of the soprano and bass sections in the choir.
This tune is a beautiful traditional waltz written by the Italian violin legend Aristeo Carpi. He wrote only dance music and was so prolific that in many cases he didn't give names to his tunes except by their form....in this case, "Valzer" which is Italian for waltz. This piece is written in the Choro style, which is considered characteristically urban popular music and draws its influences from traditional folk music. It is characterized by virtuosity, improvisation and subtle modulations, and is full of syncopation and counterpoint. There are three separate and unique sections to this tune, and it modulates from the key of D to A in the third section. The form is A, B, C, A. It uses familiar chord shapes and arpeggios. Guitarists have written me saying that my arrangement evokes both a folk and classical feel. It is one of my favorite pieces to play on the guitar.
This well-known tune was written by John D. Loudermilk for Chet Atkins. The version I grew up with and learned as a child was performed by Doc Watson, who recorded it twice. Once with his son Merle and the other time with bassist Russ Savakus. The thing that stuck with me is that both versions were recorded with capos, which, as a kid, gave me a hard time because the fret markers threw me off! Despite this, it really helped me concentrate and focus more on the music and helped me gain confidence and fluency on the fretboard without having to look at my hands.
I present my arrangement with the capo on the third fret and draw attention to this because you will be compelled to rely on your ears rather than the fret markers to help guide you through the piece. The arrangement highlights a variation, some great arpeggios, turn arounds, double pull-offs, moving bass lines and simple suggestions on adding interest to the melody. This is a must tune for any fingerstyle guitarist and is a good piece to start working on movable bass lines and awareness on the fingerboard.... without looking!