Who would have known that there are 6 distinct tunes called Cumberland Gap? Not me, at least not until just now. The tune I play by this name, I learned from an Orville Burns recording, and it’s really fun to play. It goes back and forth between G and E minor, and it’s really GROWLY. I tried to play it with the characteristic Orville bump, not too fast, but with feeling.
Out of the tunes by this name, 4 of the six are in the key of D, and only one of the G tunes had anything substantial written about it. I was aware of the Old-Time tune by this name in the key of D, but I think this one is way cooler… By the way, I recorded today’s tune in between teaching lessons at Magnolia Music Studio.
CUMBERLAND GAP . Old-Time, Bluegrass; Breakdown. USA, Kentucky. G Major. Standard tuning. AB (Titon): AAB (Phillips/1994): AA’B (Phillips/1989): AABB’ (Krassen): AABBC (Phillips/1994). Jeff Titon (2001) believes source Leonard Rutherford may have learned this tune from African-American fiddler Cuje Bertram, who was a friend and sometimes informal playing partner and stand-in. Rutherford recorded the tune in 1928 with playing partner Dick Burnett. Titon has found the tune among those included in the 1915 Berea, Kentucky, tune lists and in records of Berea fiddle contests for 1919, 1920 and 1924.