Poor Ditching Boy [demo]

Given the opportunity to try a little Richard Thompson for a forthcoming project, I celebrated the end of Wimbledon by trying this one out. I think it has potential. Anyway, it’s a great song, and may find its way into my repertoire when I’m happy with the arrangement.

Handsome Molly [demo]

Handsome Molly (Arranged & Adapted Harley)

I wish was in London
Or some other seaport town
I’d set foot on a steamboat
And I’d sail the ocean round

Sailing on the ocean
Or sailing on the sea
I’d think of handsome Molly
Wherever she may be

I went down to church last Sunday
And as she passed me by
I knew her mind was changing
By the roving of her eye

Do you remember Molly
When you gave me your right hand
You said if e’er you married
That I would be the man

But now you’ve gone and left me
Go on with whom you please
While I lie here in sorrow
Lamenting at your ease

I’ll go down to the river
When everyone’s asleep
And think on handsome Molly
And lay me down and weep

Her hair as dark as ravens
Her eyes were black as sloes
Her cheeks were like the lilies
That in the morning blow

And I wish was in London
Or some other seaport town
I’d set foot on a steamboat
And sail the ocean round

Sailing on the ocean
Or sailing on the sea
I’d think of Handsome Molly
Wherever she may be

I’ve recorded this previously, but this is a slightly different arrangement, as a demo for a collaborative project that I’m considering.

The lyric closely resembles ‘Loving Hannah’, a song that seems to have crossed the Atlantic and then come back to us, apparently due to Jean Ritchie and Peggy Seeger. In fact, I tend to miss out verse 6 because it’s so similar to the equivalent verse in ‘Loving Hannah’ that I tend to give the lady the wrong name…

I don’t remember where I got the tune or words from. The lyric is not dissimilar to Doc Watson’s, but his version is faster and more bluegrass-y, with a tune somewhat reminiscent of ‘Poor Ellen Smith’. I was roundly criticized a few months ago at an Americana session because it isn’t ‘the bluegrass version’ or even particularly old-timey. Get over it, guys. It’s my version, and I’ve no pretensions to being a bluegrass player. I know my limitations. (Which is why the sitar and banjo sounds are supplied via a Variax guitar, not a real sitar and banjo. I did play quite a lot of banjo at one time, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable playing one in public nowadays. In fact, one was thrust into my hands at a session last year and I couldn’t wait to give it back. The slide is my Gretsch Bobtail resonator guitar.)

I sometimes hear this sung with the second verse sung as a chorus.

David Harley

The Clown’s Revenge [demo]

Today, I felt somewhat metallic, so I went back to a tune I wrote back in the 70s. It’s been a while, so it’s a bit rough round the edges. (The fact that both the guitars are actually the same acoustic – a Gibson J160E – made it a bit harder on the fingers than it needed to have been, too.) Distorted lead is the way I originally wanted it, but I might do an acoustic version instead when I do it properly.

I sometimes think there should be a song to go with this, but never got round to writing some words.

Copyright David Harley, 1973.

The Wild Swans at Coole [demo]

This is my setting of a poem by William Butler Yeats. I posted a recording of it in 2015, when I was essentially making it up as I went along, but coming back to it after a year, I’m feeling a lot more comfortable with it.

The trees are in their autumn beauty,
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky;
Upon the brimming water among the stones
Are nine-and-fifty swans.

The nineteenth autumn has come upon me
Since I first made my count;
I saw, before I had well finished,
All suddenly mount
And scatter wheeling in great broken rings
Upon their clamorous wings.

I have looked upon those brilliant creatures,
And now my heart is sore.
All’s changed since I, hearing at twilight,
The first time on this shore,
The bell-beat of their wings above my head,
Trod with a lighter tread.

Unwearied still, lover by lover,
They paddle in the cold
Companionable streams or climb the air;
Their hearts have not grown old;
Passion or conquest, wander where they will,
Attend upon them still.

But now they drift on the still water,
Mysterious, beautiful;
Among what rushes will they build,
By what lake’s edge or pool
Delight men’s eyes when I awake some day
To find they have flown away?

David Harley

Midsummer Madness

[Originally published on Dataholics, for no particular reason. But since there’s a Cornish Connection…]

Had it not been for Facebook, I might never have realized that so many people regard summer as starting around Midsummer. I suppose astronomical summer (as opposed to meteorological summer) explains why Springwatch feels so late in the season.

In a way, it’s very English to centre summer on the available daylight rather than meteorological patterns, since we’re usually pleasantly surprised by days on which it doesn’train. Though I suppose warmer rain has its advantages.

Having only troubled to look into this so late in life, I’m now wondering whether to celebrate the start of summer (again), regret the imminence of the solstice (light-wise, it’s all downhill from here), or wait a few days to wish you a happy St John’s Day (and maybe even St Peter’s Day a few days after). Or maybe I’ll just go back to not thinking about it at all. However, being in Cornwall at the time of Golowan probably makes the latter course of action impractical. I’m already in danger of extreme fascination with this world of Obby Oss (I’d love to have reproduced Charles Causley’s poem here, but you can find it in his ‘I had a little cat’ collection) and Obby’s connections with Old Penglaze and the Mari Lwyd. Not to mention Mirk of Lilleshall and his description of how St John’s Day turned from devotion to gluttony and sin. I think I’ll just leave that there.

David Harley

Never Look Back [demo]

Something a little more experimental than usual. Well, more synth and dissonance, anyway. Underneath, there’s quite a simple song. But then, I’m a simple person…

No Cornwall connection: it’s just that I recently came across the words.

Words & Music by David Harley, copyright 1975. Guitar, vocals, synth by DH.

We have ourselves and the moment/and can’t that be enough?
After all, we are adults/and we say that we’re in love

Surely there’s a guardian angel/to forgive us this one sin
But you lie by my side taking care not to break/this fragile web of limbs

And you never look back when you leave me/I know looking back after you
But we bleed when we slash at each other/& I’d say that was love, wouldn’t you?

And I’m sick of the ache in my mind/when you try to smile and don’t know the way
I think sometimes when I look at us both/you could almost teach me to pray

David Harley