Live acoustic party music
October 20, 2012 11:12 AM   Subscribe

Looking for a list of old-timey popular standard songs to play (guitar/banjo/mandolin/harmonica, etc) with friends in the living room while we drink beer and let the kids jump around.

We often have musicians over but since everyone's got kids now, we've had to unplug the jams. More often than not, this means no jams. I enjoy playing for my kids and they'll go get their instruments to play along but I'd like to get a repertoire of familiar kid-friendly (all the kids are under 5) and adult-interesting songs to bust out at get togethers, that encourage participation. Perhaps even do some street busking.

This might be a little too specific for AskMe, but here's what I am looking for. Mostly folksy, upbeat, mostly early 20th century American music. Bluegrass, blues, country or pop. I think what I'm talking about is Roots music, but I'm not sure. The vein I'm looking for has been heavily mined by The Asylum Street Spankers. I am not looking for obscure songs or acoustic versions of modern pop songs. Myself, and most of our friends, are rock musicians and this is music I have often enjoyed but seldom played, which is why I am asking for help.

Here is what I am currently playing that I think would potentially qualify:

Spanish Pipe Dream
I Walk The Line
You Are My Sunshine
Car Song (Woodie Guthrie)
Do-Re-Mi (more Guthrie)
Mule Skinner Blues (same)
Hard Travelin' (ditto)
Brown Eyed Girl
Don't Bury Me (Prine)
All Together Now (Beatles)
When I'm 64
posted by Slarty Bartfast to Media & Arts (23 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
You're in luck... I got a new harmonica a few weeks ago, and found this nice list..... (with notations for a harmonica even)
posted by HuronBob at 11:17 AM on October 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The stuff on Springsteen's The Seeger Sessions and the subsequent Live in Dublin with the Sessions Band is a pretty good distillation of this kind of thing. Kids seem to be pretty into it.

What about stuff from the Dead catalog? There're some songs there that have pretty much become standards at acoustic jams - "Friend of the Devil" and "Ripple" are constants.
posted by brennen at 11:29 AM on October 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: That's good, Brennan.

Just came across two others in my notebook:

Plastic Jesus and Good Ole Mountain Dew
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 11:31 AM on October 20, 2012

My daughter just started Mandolin and we have found that Hymns fit nicely with Mando....the old standards, I'll Fly Away, etc. No words so no religious influence, just nice tunes that folks mostly know....and they are easy to play.
posted by pearlybob at 11:31 AM on October 20, 2012

Wabash Cannonball

Blue Yodel (T for Texas)

Hey Good Lookin'

...the biggest hit at our neighbourhood jams has been:

This Wheel's on Fire
posted by bonobothegreat at 11:39 AM on October 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

I grew up listening to Pete Seeger's American Folk Songs for Children and his other children's albums. There should be a lot you can mine from those play lists.

Don't miss Woody Guthrie's newer stuff, from the Wilco/Billy Bragg collaboration, like Hoodoo Voodoo, which he wrote for his kids.
posted by gingerbeer at 11:53 AM on October 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

I just started playing ukulele this year and I get a lot of song lists from the user generated one that people put together on Chordie. So this set of lists of "folk & traditional" has some good ideas of things that might be useful and you can pick and choose (and make your own songbook) and it also comes with all the chords for various instruments. Otherwise I often just search Google for my favorite composer "trad arr" and see what comes up.
posted by jessamyn at 11:54 AM on October 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

A longer list of Pete Seeger songs.
posted by gingerbeer at 11:57 AM on October 20, 2012

A ever-popular one around here is Stephen Foster's Hard Times.
posted by LN at 12:07 PM on October 20, 2012

This children's song book has *lots* of good stuff. Home on the Range, Working on the Railroad, My Favorite Things, When the Saints Come Marching In. Lots of *ridiculously* easy-to-play arrangements of fun-to-sing songs.
posted by colin_l at 12:54 PM on October 20, 2012

Pre-1920 jazz standards
posted by Tom-B at 1:21 PM on October 20, 2012

Jerry Garcia and John Grisman put out several albums of this type of music. Jerry's version of Shady Grove is awesome. He also put out an album Not For Kids Only that would work really well.

Here are the tracks from that album:

"Jenny Jenkins" (Traditional) - 4:22
"Freight Train" (Elizabeth Cotten) - 5:20
"A Horse Named Bill" (Traditional) - 3:04
"Three Men Went A-Hunting" (Traditional) - 3:15
"When First Unto This Country" (Traditional) - 4:01
"Arkansas Traveller" (Traditional) - 3:28
"Hopalong Peter" (Traditional) - 2:37
"Teddy Bears' Picnic" (Traditional) - 4:26
"There Ain't No Bugs On Me" (Traditional) - 4:50
"The Miller's Will" (Traditional) - 3:09
"Hot Corn, Cold Corn" (Traditional) - 4:02
"A Shenandoah Lullaby" (Traditional) - 7:52
posted by JohnnyGunn at 2:00 PM on October 20, 2012

some stuff we play around our house:
Man In Me (Dylan)
Boys of Summer ("countrified")
Have You Ever Seen The Rain
I'll Be Your Baby Tonight (Dylan)
Angel of Harlem (u2)
Trip Through Your Wires u2
Al I Really Want To Do (Dylan)
Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You (dylan)
I Lost It (Lucinda)
posted by mrmarley at 2:37 PM on October 20, 2012

City of New Orleans is pretty much essential. Turns out 5-year-old boys don't mind long wordy un-funny songs as long as the long wordy un-funny songs are about trains.

And while you're doing the Beatles, Octopus's Garden and Yellow Submarine are really de facto kids' songs. I remember being five and wondering what sort of mistake had happened at the record factory that they ended up on one of my parents' records when they clearly should have been on one of mine. Same goes for The Mighty Quinn, if that floats your boat style-wise.
posted by nebulawindphone at 2:41 PM on October 20, 2012

And on the John Prine tip, what about Fish and Whistle?
posted by nebulawindphone at 2:42 PM on October 20, 2012

Dan Zanes has a bunch of awesome kid-music albums that draw on lots of traditions. Good stuff--check them out and I'll bet you find lots that you'd like to play and sing.
posted by Sublimity at 2:49 PM on October 20, 2012

Please consider the Steve Earle/Del McCoury Band gem "The Mountain," and in particular its train song, "Texas Eagle" (lyrics). Rootsy, folksy, upbeat, kid-friendly, and with plenty of opportunity for all of you to play.
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:00 PM on October 20, 2012

Kristin Hersh has an album of slightly-morbid folk songs (Murder, Misery, and then Goodnight) that are upbeat and easily learnable.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 4:30 PM on October 20, 2012

Waiting for the Federals?
posted by yoHighness at 4:32 PM on October 20, 2012

Response by poster: The Seeger Sessions is really just exactly what I was looking for, Pandora's doing the rest. I wanted songs that were familiar and simple enough that any wandering string player who goes to open mic nights and bluegrass festivals (without going straight bluegrass or folk) would recall them well enough to fake it.

I just mentioned kid-friendly because I want to stay uptempo and it also kind of rules out most murder ballads.

Plus, I'm not good enough to play most bluegrass or gypsy jazz.

But these are all very thoughtful responses and I very much appreciate it. Y'all are welcome to come over and have a glass of whiskey by the fire and let the kids jump on the couch, just bring an instrument.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 7:10 PM on October 20, 2012

What Shall We Do Withe the Drunken Sailor? is enormous amounts of fun to sing with a rowdy bunch, and the guitar chords are just Am and G, which makes things easy.
posted by h00py at 6:04 AM on October 21, 2012

Learn any song that Bugs Bunny and his friends sang, any of the popular songs used in Warner Brothers cartoons as incidental music. They're old and corny but millions of people know them from watching cartoons. For example, Michigan J. Frog sang (Tripod page):
  • Hello, Ma Baby
  • Michigan Rag (written for the cartoon; not an actual old-time rag)
  • Come Back to Erin
  • I'm Just Wild About Harry
  • Throw Him Down, McCloskey
  • Won't You Come Over to My House
  • Largo al factotum
  • Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone
Not all of them will be winners for today's singalong, but some are definitely worth knowing. Also look for songs such as On Moonlight Bay, Home On The Range, I'm Looking Over A Four Leaf Clover, While Strolling Through The Park One Day, By The Light Of The Silvery Moon, I Love To Singa, and Tea For Two. People don't know that they know them until you start singing them and suddenly years of watching cartoons pays off and they're singing hundred-year-old pop songs.
posted by pracowity at 6:25 AM on October 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Someone just favorited this thread and it made me think I should probably post an update. Turns out I was basically looking for your average American Folk song book, but at any rate, the binder that sits next to the banjo and guitar contains the following:

All Together Now
Always Look on the Bright Side of Life
Angel from Montgomery
Bound for Hell
Brown Eyed Girl (Ick, I should probably tear this one out)
Car Song
Christmas in Prison
Crazy as a Loon
Do Re Mi
Erie Canal
Fish and Whistle
Folsom Prison Blues
Friend of the Devil
Froggie Went a Courtin
Get Rhythm
Going Up the Country
Hard Travellin
I am Weary Let Me Rest
Illegal Smile
I'll Fly Away
I Walk the Line
Jesse James
Jesus Christ (same song as Jesse James with Guthrie's new lyrics)
Johnny 99
Keep on the Sunny Side
Mountain Dew
O Mary Don't You Weep
Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da
Pay Me My Money Down
Plastic Jesus
Please Don't Bury Me
Red River Valley
Sam Stone
Spanish Pipedream
Speed of the Sound of Loneliness
Wabash Cannonball
When I'm 64
Wings of an Eagle (from Ziggy Marley's children's album -- attention everyone, I want my surviving band members to play this at my funeral)
Wreck of the Old 97
You Are My Sunshine
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 10:25 AM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

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