Seth Shumate is one of a small handful of great oldtime harmonica players. What he can do few others can. Here Seth and Ben Smith (fiddle) sit down to play the iconic “Turkey in the Straw”.

Seth said he based his harmonica playing on this tune on Eck Robertson, Humphrey Bate, and Kyle Wooten. He used this arrangement to win the Brooklyn Folk Festival harmonica contest in 2016.

The fiddle version is based on the playing of Henry Barnes and Ward Jarvis.

Guitar chords

The basic guitar chords, if you want to play along, are:

A part
G / / / G / D /
G / / / D / G /

B part
G / / / C / / /
G / / D G / D G

But a fun alternative, which Dan Gellert used in his backup of Henry Barnes at Clifftop in 2018 throws in a quick A major chord in the B part for a little jazzy II-V-I action. Recorded oldtime players in the 20s and 30s were very much influenced by the popular music of their time, including jazz, so while you may not hear too many major II chords being played in oldtime today, it’s certain still within the bounds of the historical practice. And it sounds cool!

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Alternate B part
G / / / C / / /
G / A / D / / G

Henry Barnes and Dan Gellert at Clifftop 2018:

Seth Shumate – Turkey in the Straw solo harmonica:

And this…

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