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Down In Little Egypt

This is a fast lively tune in the key of C. It seems to be one of a family of fiddle tunes including Chinese Breakdown and McKinley's March, which are played in this key.

I learned Down in Little Egypt from the recent recording by the Foghorn Stringband on their Weiser Sunrise CD. The tune was also recorded previously by the Illinois fiddle player Lynn "Chirps" Smith and can be heard on his eponymously titled CD Down In Little Egypt.

Wondering where Little Egypt is, I discovered from an Internet search that it is the name of an area in southern Illinois. In pre-war days Little Egypt was ruled by the Shelton Brothers, a gang "so tough that the Windy City mobsters hesitated to move south". Whether the fiddle tune illustrates their nefarious deeds I will leave you to decide, but by coincidence it is a crooked tune. The second part has an extra half-note beat against the F chord (measures 4 and 12 in Part 2), and there are only fifteen measures in this part rather than the expected sixteen. But just play through it - your ear will tell you that it's a great tune and the good Lord intended it to be that way.

The Foghorn Stringband recording is interesting in that the mandolin player, Caleb Klauder, plays right along with the fiddle, as he does on most of the tunes on the CD. As well as being a feat of stamina it creates an attractive and distinctive lilt to proceedings. It's difficult to separate the fiddle and mandolin on the recording, as they are mixed in both channels, but I think the tab is pretty close to what the two instruments are doing.

Down in Little Egypt is played pretty fast, around half-note = 144 on the metronome. However, it's a straightforward piece, and would be a good tune for developing mandolin players to work up some speed and power.

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