Roll In My Sweet Baby’s Arms

I got this from Jack Elliott, yet again, and he presumably got it from the Monroe Brothers —Monroe Brothers he did it slower, but had Ralph Rinzler playing mandolin to get something like to the Monroe Brothers sound. In those days, I had never heard of the Monroe Brothers, or even of Bill Monroe. I’m not sure I even knew what bluegrass was.

Many years later, I’ve heard a lot of Bill Monroe records, but I don’t know any I like better than the ones he did at the beginning of his career with his brother Charlie playing guitar and singing harmony. (Actually, I guess Charlie sang lead and Bill sang high tenor, as in his bluegrass bands.)

I used to play this song a lot — along with “Katy Cline,” which I got from the Greenbriar Boys (of whom more will be said in later posts), it was what I’d pull out at bluegrass jams, and I also played it fairly often at bar gigs. It was upbeat and energetic, and gave me a chance to do some Woody-style flatpicking. Then at some point in the late 1980s I stopped using a flatpick and decided to come up with a way to play it with my fingers, and worked out a fancy fingerstyle arrangement… and somehow, it just wasn’t the same.

So I didn’t play it for a couple of decades or more, and then I got to doing this project and tried it out, using my fingers, because I don’t use a flatpick anymore. And it wasn’t working, so I dug out a flatpick, and damn… it’s still fun. I also dug out a harmonica, since I used to play harmonica breaks on this one, and that’s still fun, too.