Five years ago, mandolinist Paul Kotapish and Celtic harpist Maureen Brennan and I began discovering the delightful ways that the Grateful Dead songbook resonated with the Celtic tradition. We turned our discoveries into Wake the Dead, the jam band we still tour with. One of the first combinations we hit on was the unlikely pairing of the 18th century harp waltz, Lord Inchiquin, with the straight-four Dead shuffle Sugaree. Maureen was fond of “Lord Inchiquin” and at some point we found ourselves abandoning the standard chordal pattern and riffing on the first 4 bars of the B part, alternating between A and D. This is, of course, Sugaree’s chordal engine. Within minutes, we realized that the words nestled into the waltz time perfectly, as if the song had always meant to roll along in 3/4. Eager not to over-arrange such a beautiful song, we sandwiched the verses between the two parts of the harp air and Wake the Dead’s take on Sugaree was ready to go.
The tune is in D major, while the song is in A mixolydian, allowing for sharing a 2-sharp key signature and making for subtle emotional shifts when one morphs into the other. Here’s a solo guitar version of our arrangement, in my usual Drop D tuning.
I use two different picking patterns for different parts of this arrangement. The A part of Inchiquin uses a straight thumb and 3 finger approach, with thumb always picking down and fingers always picking up. All chord rolls are played low to high. But for the Sugaree Vamp I switch to bracing my index finger with my thumb as sort of a “zen pick” and picking on both down- and up-strokes. This opens back up to free the thumb and fingers to pick in opposite directions, as in the 3rd and 4th bars of the Vamp, with the first note picked with the thumb, the second an index finger up-stroke, and the last two beats brushed down with the index fingernail.
I play the E minor chord in the 17th bar of the verse as a high-to-low arpeggio using my thumbnail. Also, I barre this chord with my thumb, though you could easily use a more comfortable fingering. Again, the arrangement starts with the A part of Lord Inchiquin, continues into the vamp/verse/chorus, repeats that pattern four times, and finishes with one time through the B part of Inchiquin. Everybody dance.