The how and why…
This demo was recorded back in the 80s, and the voice was in better shape.
More recent version, which is actually not bad (and less ambient noise):
Down to the River: copyright David Harley, 1981
Another example of the sort of song I never write. I’m not really sure where this one came from.
I won’t go down to the river / anyway not yet
There’s too much to do and the water’s cold / and I don’t want my feet wet
I don’t want my feet wet
I won’t go down to the river / I guess I really should
But the sand’s so warm between my toes / and you know it feels so good
I know it does me good
Come on down to the river / it can’t do you harm
You’ve got to learn sometime to sink or swim / and the sun will keep you warm
The sun will keep you warm
I won’t go down to the river / you know I can’t go down
The water’s so still, the sides so steep / I’m scared that I might drown
So scared that I might drown
Come on down to the river / the road’s so hard and rough
If you keep your head and your hands are clean / surely you can’t drown in love?
You can’t drown in love
I can’t go down to the river / I surely can’t go down
My soul is parched but my body aches / and I just know I’ll drown
I know I’ll surely drown
Come on down to the river / it tastes so sweet and cold
Come on down before it gets too late / and wash the mud out of your soul
The mud out of your soul
We’ve got to get on down to the river / we have to learn to trust
Got to wash away all the doubt and fear / before the whole damn’ world dries up
Before the world dries up
Words & Music © David Harley 1974
Could be me, could be you
You used to say you loved me
Now I wonder was that true?
That moving out and moving on look
Hangs heavy in your eyes…
Something old, something new
Something borrowed, something blue
Wonder what became of me and you?
Changes in the wind
There was a time
When nothing kept us apart
But something’s going down
In both our hearts
I lie awake half the night when you’re not there
Wondering who you’re with and where
One more Scotch
One more cigarette
Remembering too much to forget
Missing you even when you’re in the room
Knowing you won’t be, soon
All rights reserved.
It’s several years since I picked up my classic, but this weekend I finally got around to restringing it. When the strings had settled, I did some noodling that evolved into a pseudo-classical thing that I finally put down as an MP3. It has one or two rough spots, but I think I might edit it a little and use it as soundtrack for a video at some point.
Now with added video:
Words & music (c) David Harley.
A song which has been nagging at me for several years, since we first knew that we were moving to the area (though it actually took a year for everything to go through). But then, it took even longer to finish the song.
Re-recorded and remastered.
Close to where I stand on Trecobben
Pilgrims walk St. Michael’s Way
Few today reach Santiago
Most will cease their journey at the Bay
The Mount is rising from the distant water
Yet barely seems an arm’s length away
Causley on the road to Marazion
Dreamed of one last summer in the Med
Sheets are dancing Morris in the wind
A buzzard slowly circles overhead
Engine houses march along the skyline
A sea fret daubs the coast in brown and red
Beyond the darkening horizons
Beyond the hills to the West
Beyond Pendeen and Cape Cornwall
The Longships founder off Lands End
Sea nymphs and mermaids pluck the heartstrings
But the bells no longer ring in Lyonesse
Around me march the ghosts of long-dead armies
Recalled among these ancient stones
The engine house beyond the farm
Still offers shelter to the crows
I watch the sun sink slowly to the West
Back into the sea from whence it rose
Trecobben is an alternative name for Trencrom Hill and the giant who is supposed to have lived there and passed the time by throwing stones at his counterpart Cormoran on St. Michael’s Mount, which can clearly be seen from the top of the hill (weather permitting).
The St. Michael’s Way is part of the network of pilgrim’s paths that converge on the pilgrim route that leads to St. James Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. It’s believed that pilgrims and missionaries from Wales and Ireland would land at Lelant and walk overland to Marazion rather than risk sailing/rowing around Lands End.
The second verse refers to Charles Causley’s ‘The Seasons In North Cornwall’ where he talks of meeting ‘Old Summer’ on the road to Marazion.
Living around Trencrom, we’ve had lots of time to observe that the horizon is often obscured by low-lying red-brown cloud, especially when pollution levels are high.
The Longships are a series of islets a mile or so off Lands End, known for the lighthouse on Carn Bras. In Arthurian legend, the kingdom of Lyonesse was said to have bordered Cornwall but to have sunk beneath the waves between Lands End and the Scillies. Walter de la Mere’s ‘Sunk Lyonesse’ refers to Nereids playing lyres in “sea-cold Lyonesse”, while the Mermaid of Zennor has her own place in Penwith mythology.
There is a plaque on the Iron Age fort at the top of Trencrom that reads:
“This property was presented to the National Trust by Lt Col C L Tyringham, of Trevethoe in March 1946 & at his wish is to be regarded as a memorial to the men and women of Cornwall, who gave their lives in the service of their country during the two world wars. 1914 – 1918, 1939 – 1945”
There are a good many engine houses in the area, but the one beyond Trencrom Farm is the one variously known as Wheal Alice and Wheal Foxes, part of the former Trencrom Mine.
Having resented it for decades when people have told me that I’m ‘influenced’ by Bert Jansch – I’m sure I’ve been influenced by many people, and I’d love to be able to play some of Bert’s songs, though there are only a couple I’ve ever sung – but I haven’t intentionally copied anyone in many decades. While I’m still in awe of his guitar-playing, I’m a songwriter with my own voice and guitar technique, and I tend to think that when people want to pigeonhole you as ‘copying’ someone else, that’s either just laziness or a bad case of ‘you’re no better than me, you’re just a copyist…’
Anyway, I was rather surprised to revisit this and notice that the vocal here was quite Jansch-ish in places. Especially as Bert didn’t actually do a lot of blues, that I remember: maybe I’d been listening to the album (‘Nicola’) on which he did do a lyrically weird version of Corinna/Weeping Willow and a slightly more conventional ‘Come Back Baby’. That said, the guitar here sounds quite John Renbourn/Wizz Jones, rather than Jansch – I think I hear a little bit of Al Jones there, too – but with some tropes I’m pretty sure are all mine … But I’m certainly not ashamed of it, and probably couldn’t match it nowadays.
The words are quite blues-pastiche, but not based on any older song in particular. Not a song I’d write now, but I think it works OK. Recorded on domestic equipment in the early 80s, though I’m pretty sure I was already singing it in the mid-70s, around the time I started singing much more of my own stuff. .
I don’t have technical skills to generate sophisticated animations and such, and I’d rather not flood the world with too many live videos of variable quality. But some recordings seem to fit OK with a series of photographs. Well, to my ear and eye, anyway. ‘Painting the Desert’ is actually an improvised slide guitar piece accompanied by photographs from a drive through the Painted Desert in Arizona, from when we followed up a work trip to the Bay Area and San Diego with a version of the Grand Circle Road Trip including Zion, Bryce Canyon, Grand Canyon, as well as Sedona, Oak Canyon and so on. I have a feeling that I’ll eventually find a use for some of the photos from those attractions, too. In the meantime…
Music (c) David Harley
A bluesy slide piece.
An instrumental version of a song also known as ‘One Kind Favour’ or ‘See That My Grave Is Kept Clean’ – not the Carter Family song with the latter title, though.