The Carpenter’s Son

Words by A.E. Housman, from ‘A Shropshire Lad’. Music copyright David Harley – All rights reserved.

This is just a one-take version with vocal and guitar, as I do it live.

Backup:

 

Here’s an unaccompanied version from the 1980s. Recording quality isn’t great, but the vocal is better.

Backup:

 

‘Carpentry’ is an instrumental version of ‘The Carpenter’s Son’. The song was originally intended to be sung unaccompanied, but it somehow developed a guitar accompaniment with a slight Middle Eastern/North African/desert lute feel, and the first section of the instrumental is very much based on that.

The faster second section was meant to sound more medieval, and includes  overdubbed dulcimer and bouzouki. Cittern would have been more appropriate, perhaps, but I didn’t have one to hand. 🙂 Strangely, it seems to have finished up sounding a bit like the Philip Glass Ensemble (but with much less time between pattern changes), but I like it.

Backup copy:

 

And here are the words, since we may as well have the whole thing in the same place…

`Here the hangman stops his cart:
Now the best of friends must part.
Fare you well, for ill fare I:
Live, lads, and I will die.

`Oh, at home had I but stayed
‘Prenticed to my father’s trade,
Had I stuck to plane and adze,
I had not been lost, my lads.

`Then I might have built perhaps
Gallows-trees for other chaps,
Never dangled on my own,
Had I left but ill alone.

`Now, you see, they hang me high,
And the people passing by
Stop to shake their fists and curse;
So ’tis come from ill to worse.

`Here hang I, and right and left
Two poor fellows hang for theft:
All the same’s the luck we prove,
Though the midmost hangs for love.

`Comrades all, that stand and gaze,
Walk henceforth in other ways;
See my neck and save your own:
Comrades all, leave ill alone.

`Make some day a decent end,
Shrewder fellows than your friend.
Fare you well, for ill fare I:
Live, lads, and I will die.’

David Harley

Aftermath/Postcards [demo]

A tale of three dysfunctional people. Actually, some of my best songs are about dysfunctional people, but I don’t want to think too hard about what that signifies. As it has a very simple chord sequence (almost literally a three-chord trick) the demo version includes a second acoustic or electric guitar.

Backup copy:

Electric backup:

 

Years on from the explosion
Standing in the aftermath
She waits for the three minute warning
Hears nothing
Runs the bath
And pulls the chain on another miracle
Waits (though the post is always late)
For letters which never seem to arrive
And are never worth the wait

Still the sun shines on bravely
The wind blows kisses to the see
Gulls waltz to the rhythm of the waves
And she writes
‘I wish you could be here with me’
Skips through the morning like a postcard
Spends the afternoon alone
Carries out the day to order
One eye on her horoscope
And one ear to the phone

Sometimes she wakes in someone else’s bed
Before he wakes, she’s gone
Leaving him to wonder why
She couldn’t let the evening die alone
Still he lights a cigarette
Soon remembers to forget
But he wonders where his whisky went
Wonders why his day is empty

She has dropped her life on postcards
Through a letterbox in distant parts
But the tale was shunted into disused sidings
And the unintended bombsites of his heart
And he writes “At last I’ve found a woman
Who’s noticed that I’m me,
And not just a dispenser
Of Scotch and sympathy
And maybe she’s The One
Or maybe I’m just marking time
But at least she holds her liquor
And she doesn’t whine…”

And he writes
“Go your way, taking with you
A year or two of my life
That’s all I have to offer
But don’t forget to write…”

David Harley (c) 1974

James Alley Blues [demo]

A  work in progress.

I’ve played ‘Born In The Country’ – Judy Roderick’s rewrite of Richard (Rabbit) Brown’s ‘James Alley Blues’ – for at least four decades. Usually for other singers, though in recent years I’ve been doing a more personalized solo version which might turn up here eventually.  Today it struck me that it would be nice to do the pre-Roderick version.

This is much closer to the version Brown recorded in 1927, though I’ve almost certainly misremembered the melody and made no attempt to duplicate the guitar part. I guess I should dig out the Victor recording, but I quite like it like this.

David Harley

Paper City 2019 [demo]

There is a studio recording of this which is more rock ‘n’ roll, but I haven’t really done it in public since the disbanding of the Flying Piglets (yeah, I know, but the name wasn’t my idea…) so I thought I’d try a new arrangement. Needs work, but I think it will be OK.

Here’s the 1980s version: vocals, acoustic and slide by me.

Backup:

I woke up with my mind’s eye facing your direction:
I looked hard and I saw you needed help.
You’re choking on paper and tape and legislation,
But you can’t produce one thing to help yourself.

Paper city at the heart of a paper empire:
You’ve got strings to pull, you’ve got wires all over the earth.
Sky-climbing parasite, concrete and paper jungle,
You’ve got money to burn, but I know you’d rather freeze to death.

You’ve got stacks of stocks and shares and bonds:
You’ve got telephone and telex,databank and dateline too.
But you can’t produce as much as one lead pencil,
Or a bar of soap, or a rubber band to pull you through.

The media twitch at the flash of a freemason’s handshake:
Speeches are made and the punters gather round;
Paper politicians and faceless company men,
Taking the pulse of an ailing paper pound.

I bet you know just what you’re worth on paper:
When the market crumbles, what will that do to you?
A lot of cold people don’t own the earth they lie in:
Will you be all right in your green-lined paper tomb?

Paper city at the heart of a bankrupt empire:
Your towers get higher as your assets hit new lows.
Nose-diving parasite, I wouldn’t mind you dying,
But you’ll take so many with you when you go.

Copyright David Harley 1982

One Step Away (from the blues) 2019 [demo]

We recorded a version of this back in the ’80s for which I liked the arrangement, but was never quite happy with the vocals. Finally I have a version where the guitar part and vocal seem to work. Now I just have to think about the additional instruments (acoustic lead, 12-string, and electric slide on the original version). And maybe merging it with ‘Letting Go

Words & Music copyright David Harley

And here’s the 1980s version.

Unfortunately, I only had an imperfect cassette recording to work from, so there’s more noise than I’d like. But the mix is reasonably good, and I’ve remastered it here as best I could, given my unreliable hearing and unimpressive engineering skills.

  • Vocal, acoustic guitar, electric guitar: David Harley
  • Acoustic lead guitar: Don MacLeod
  • Acoustic 12-string guitar: Bob Theil

Backup version:

He never wanted her love, just a piece of her time
A loving night now and then, and no loving lies
Just a tender glance from distant eyes
But he learned too late to recognize
That he was far, far away – he’d missed the alarm
Drowning far, far away in other arms
He hadn’t noticed her changing till daylight broke him the news
Far, far away, one step away from the blues

He never wanted to stray far away from himself
He never thought he’d rely on anyone else
For a light in the window, a knock on the door
Somewhere to keep warm when the nights turned cold
But she was far, far away when the blizzard set in
The door stood silent and locked, and he was soaked to the skin
He hadn’t noticed her changing till she left him with nothing to lose
Far, far away, one step away from the blues

He only wanted to give a small part of himself
But she took his heart then found someone else
She never thought he’d give her more than a thought or two
When she packed a few bags and cut herself loose
And went far, far away in search of herself
Never thinking to leave her new address
Neither of them knew he was changing
Till he woke up with nothing to lose
Far, far away
Far, far away
Far, far away
One step away from the blues…

David Harley

Letting Go 2019 [demo]

Backup:

You keep asking for time so I’m giving you the rest of your life
It’s been a long way down but you can give it just as long as you like
A fast set of wheels is the only way out I know
I just feel like letting go

Talk about miles of air, that’s all I need
I’m leaving light as I came ’cause that’s just about my speed
I came in 29 and I’m leaving feeling 44
I just feel like letting go

We started out dancing but we’re each doing different steps
And I’m sick of waiting for a miracle to connect
You keep changing the rules but I’ve an end game all my own
I just feel like letting go

Sometimes I get the strangest feeling lying in your bed
While my body makes love, there’s rubber burning in my head
A fast set of wheels is the cleanest cut I know
I just feel like letting go

Copyright David Harley 1982

Blackwaterside [demo]

Backup:

 

This isn’t a song I can really do justice to vocally, but after discussing arrangements with a friend a few months ago, I thought it would be nice to work on an instrumental arrangement. To be honest, I’ve cheated a little, since this is basically the accompaniment to a version I was working up with Sally Goddard last year – we might even get to play it in public somewhere this year! – with some extra ornamentation.

Sally previously recorded it with Atlantic Union in a much more rhythmic version which uses a variation on the tune most people sing. This takes it back to a much slower reading, but does use that variation in the tune.

This is in DADGAD: I was trying out a version in standard tuning a few months ago that I quite liked. I’ll have to take another look at that, but I think this would be pretty good too, with a bit more practice.

David Harley

The Chuck Berry Beri [demo]

Chuck Berry beri: related to the rocking pneumonia and the boogie-woogie flu, but not, in this case, rock and roll. The words started over a decade ago as Chuck Berry pastiche, but when I came back to it this year it turned into something quite different.

I don’t feel very much like dancing
No song worth singing but the blues
I used to feel like some kind of sex bomb
Till you absconded with the fuse

I think perhaps I need a holiday
So I’m out here on a midnight cruise
I think I’ve got the Chuck Berry-beri
Got to get a shot of rhythm and blues

I guess there’s no time left for loving
Looking into your backyard
Dissatisfaction guaranteed
But back to you was just a step too far

The waves were blowing higher
And we were shaking at the end of the cruise
It’s a fascinating rhythm
But I need a shot of rhythm and blues

I thought I saw your nightlight flicker
But I don’t think there’s anyone at home
Maybe I’ll call you with the news from nowhere
While I’m stranded by the side of the road

Maybe I still need a holiday
But I can’t afford another midnight cruise
Still I can’t break the habit
I need another shot of rhythm and blues

Words and music copyright March 2019 by David Harley