Beginning players often have a hard time coming up with songs for a bluegrass jam. Here are 10 greats to have in your pocket.
In a bluegrass jam a turn to lead a song is passed around the circle. It can be pretty tough for a new musician to come up with enough songs to keep up with the circle. It’s also tough to find songs that don’t all sound the same, and add a lot of variety and fun. Here are ten old greats with many key changes and themes: from the well-known ballad to hidden treasures that will make you a hit at the next bluegrass jam.
Our first two songs are old-time bluegrass favorites that will be well-known in any jam circle. Pull either of these songs out and everyone will know the tune. The circle will be able to follow the chords in any key. These two songs also fulfill the bluegrass need to sing forlornly lost love.
Two Lovelorn Bluegrass Favorites
“Bury Me Beneath the Willow”
This is a wonderful song about being jilted before the wedding so we might as well lay down and die!
- Here is a fabulous recording of “Bury Me Beneath The Willow”, with some original words, from 1957 sung by Mrs. Almeda Riddle.
- Here are the Bluegrass All-Stars, singing and violin by Alison Krauss
Best known from recordings by Carter Family. According to Wikipedia the song was written in 1860 by Maud Irving with music by Joseph Philbrick We ster. The original first verse was:
“I’ll twine ‘mid the ringlets of my raven black hair,
The lilies so pale and the roses so fair,
The myrtle so bright with an emerald hue,
And the pale aronatus with eyes of bright blue.”
- Here is the Carter Family singing Wildwood Flower on the Grand Ole Opry
- Here is Wildwood Flower by Flatt and Scruggs
Two Little Known Songs from The Andy Griffith Show
You can’t go wrong in a bluegrass jam with songs from The Andy Griffith Show. Some of them are little known, and yet authentic bluegrass.
- “Whoa Mule“: This is an upbeat, jazzy song with some fun lyrics. Very likely it will be new in the circle and a big hit.
- The Darlings come to visit and Charlene sings “There is a Time“. This is a beautiful song in a minor key. It’s different, many haven’t heard it, and the song is fun to play and sing.
Three Great Gospel Bluegrass Songs
These are three old time favorites that will be known in every circle and should be in every bluegrass player’s bag. They offer a lot of variety, and are great to pull out and play any time.
“I’ll Fly Away”
- Here it is sung by Alison Krauss
- A version by Johnny Cash
“This Train is Bound for Glory”
- A version by Lew Dite and his tenor banjo
- Sung by Johnny Cash
“Swing Low Sweet Chariot”
- A sweet old version by B.B. King
- Here’s Dolly Parton in the ’60s
One Happy Song
Just in case the circle has been singing too much about lost love and death, it’s great to have a happy song ready. Here’s the perfect choice.
“Keep on the Sunny Side”
- Song by Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters
- A recording for Montgomery Ward in 1928
One Long Ballad
There are a lot of words to memorize in this song, but it is such an old time favorite that it is worth learning.
- Sung by Johnny Cash
- Great recording of Burl Ives
And Finally, One Great Twist
“Amazing Grace” is a well loved traditional song sung in many circles. Put it to the tune of “House of the Rising Sun” and You’ll have a hit.
- Sung by Jack Marti
- A beautiful rendition by the Blind Boys of Alabama
Great Bluegrass Tunes for a Jam
Once you start browsing around You Tube with these ten versions you’ll get lost for hours. It’s a wonderful journey to find bluegrass tunes with meaning and variety. These 10 songs can take a circle from joy to tears and redemption.