Country western Bartok

I never expected to find metrical complexity in a country and western hit, but here we are.

“Ring of Fire”. Our old uke group used to play this a bit, in the arrangement in Beloff’s Daily Ukulele book, which has this odd 2/4 measure in the middle of it. But I’ve been thinking there was something wrong with that and I went and listened carefully to Johnny Cash’s performance.


There’s this quasi-Mariachi trumpet figure alternating with the four beat long vocal phrases in the first three lines of the verses. In Beloff’s arrangement it’s just replaced by four beats of strumming, but actually the trumpet figure is seven beats long. And the fourth line in the first verse is a three beat beat vocal phrase followed by four beats rhythm. That’s Beloff’s 2/4 measure (1/2 if you beat slower) so that’s accurate.

Except that in the second verse the third vocal phrase is three beats long while the fourth is four beats, whereas Beloff writes it as a repeat so the same rhythm as the first verse.

First verse metrical pattern:Second verse:

(The chorus, by contrast, is simple four-beat vocal phrases.)

No wonder it seemed wrong… it was too normal.



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