Flatpicking Guitar Magazine
Free Lesson - December 2021
Article by Steve Pottier
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In this month’s lesson we dive down into the Flatpicking Guitar Magazine archives and provide you with Steve Pottier’s arrangement of “Crazy Creek” from Volume 9, Number 3 of the magazine (March/April 2005). Steve based this version on an arrangement by the late, great, Clarence White. In the text of the article Steve had this to say about the arrangement:
“Crazy Creek” is an interesting tune. First, it has an unusual chord progression. It is in the key of A and uses a C chord in the first part. Then it goes to the key of C for the bridge! The second interesting thing is that it changes chords on almost every beat in the first part, making it a challenge akin to “Blackberry Blossom.”
I heard Clarence White’s version on a lesson tape he made for someone, and it caught my ear. He plays it out of open A. How do I know that? Two clues—the opening run starts on a low E note and walks up to the A. Unless you are capoed with a drop D, it has to be open to get that E note. Second clue is the slide to the E note on the first string. You can hear the characteristic open string ring telling you it’s going to an open E. This pretty much clinches the fact that it is played in open A. Actually, it works out pretty good to play it in A since the unusual chord is a C. If the tune were played out of a G position, you would be going to Bb and Eb in the bridge—why be hard on yourself?
One of the big challenges of this tune is to preserve the integrity of the chord progression. This means that whenever you change chords, you try to land on one of the notes of the chord on the first downbeat. For an A chord, those notes are A, C#, and E. For a D chord those notes are D, F#, and A. For a C chord, those notes are C, E, and G. For most of the tune, you’ll find that Clarence’s break follows that guideline.
You should also examine “Blackberry Blossom” for the same feature. I once composed a break to BBB by going up instead of down (scale wise, not pick direction). I just decided to follow the rule that I had to land on chord tones. It wasn’t an earth-shaking break, but it worked reasonably well.
But back to Clarence’s break—there are a couple of exceptions to the rule. Why do they work (hint—look at the surrounding notes, and for notes that are wrong, see if they are closely related to the chord)? The tune is in the form AABA (form, not chords), so the first part is repeated. The bridge goes off into another key, starting on an F chord!! It’s not the first thing that would come to my mind. Anyway, this part is cross-picked.
In M18 Clarence leaves out a couple of notes—I like that, it just makes it more interesting. The last part is a repeat of the first part, but I added one of Clarence’s variations, M26-27. M26 has a signature pull-off and anticipated C note.