Review for

My first review for looks at a CD/DVD/Blu-Ray set by Andrew John & Lissa.

Here’s a link to my first music review for (a great site with excellent reviews and much more), of a CD/DVD/Blu-Ray set from Denmark: ANDREW JOHN & LISSA – At Home (Last Resort Records LRCD010).

There are some older album reviews (by no means necessarily of new releases or re-releases) on Sabrinaflu (mostly mine, but one by Fliss), though any future reviews that don’t fit’s brief will probably be posted first here.

There’s now a review page on this site, with links to the and Sabrinaflu reviews cited above.

David Harley

Gooseberry Blues [demo]

Words & music (c) David Harley


A slightly weird little song. Rediscovered lurking in my things-to-get-back-to folder. Barebones arrangement: vocal and rough rhythm track (because I discovered I didn’t like the original chords as much 30 years on). Words and music copyright David Harley, 1976

Going down the upline to your heart
Changing stations for a brand-new start
If you’d asked I might have stayed
But since we met it’s been stop signals all the way

Going back to the Badlands where I’m known
So I don’t have to sing those backstage blues alone
If you ask I might just say
The gooseberry blues is one tune I don’t play

Going down the upline to your heart
Changing partners for a brand-new start
If you asked I might just stay
But since we met it’s been stoplights all the way

The Barley and the Rye [demo]

Trying out some new studio gear, I had an unexpectedly folkie moment. A song collected in Norfolk from Harry Cox by E.J. Moeran in 1927.


If I remember correctly, I first heard it sung by Martin Carthy, who I think sang it unaccompanied. I’ve used a more or less spontaneous acoustic guitar accompaniment here, though. I need to get used to it, but that’s probably going to be basis for the final version. Ironically, the guitar is somewhat Carthy-esque.

I read somewhere that Peter Bellamy used to threaten to sing it with two verses only, regarding the third verse as an anti-climax. As it were… It works for me, either way, but I included the third verse here and will probably continue to, if I ever sing it live.

From the singing of Harry Cox (according to the Digital Tradition)

It’s of an old country farmer he lived in the West Country
And he had the prettiest little wife that ever I did see
And a young man went a-courting her when the old man wasn’t nigh
Oft times they would tumble amongst the barley and the rye

When the old man woke in the morning he found himself alone
He looked out of the window and saw his wife in the corn
And the young man lay beside her, it caused the old man to cry
He cried, “Wife , I wonder at you for the spoiling of my rye.”

She cried, “Husband “she cried, “Husband, it’s like I never done before
For if you have got one friend I have another one in store
He’s a friend love will not deceive you if you will him employ
He’s got money enough to pay you for our barley and our rye

David Harley

Putting on Poetry

Here’s an article from the Poetry School on How to Put on a Poetry Reading flagged by my friend Jean Atkin, who puts on regular readings in Ludlow at which I’ve occasionally been allowed to assault the ears of an audience. (If you’re in that part of the world, I include poetry events on the Sabrinaflu blog as well as folkier stuff.)

It’s a bit London-centric, but worth a look if you’re planning a poetry event. Come to think of it, some of those tips are applicable to musical events too.

Which all reminds me that I haven’t visited any poetry events around Penwith yet. Oh, Cornwall, what a treat you have in store. 😉

David Harley

Not Sugar, Sugar – Ain’t No More Cane

Researching a song, came across a really good article in the Boston Review.

I’ve long been fascinated by the relationship between sugar, economics, slavery and hardship, historically and in song (Go Down Old Hannah, Joshua Gone Barbados, and so on).

Recently I’ve been doing some work on ‘Ain’t No More Cane’ – like Go Down Old Hannah, to which it’s related, a song from the prison farms of Texas and the Brazos river that I’ve known since the 60s. (Partly from the singing of Bob Hands and/or Dave Dauncey, if I remember correctly, and partly from a version in a book by John and/or Alan Lomax – maybe American Ballads and Folk Songs. Maybe it’s not a good choice for a white middle-class Englishman, even one with a penchant for the blues, but other unlikely people have made a good fist of it, and I’ve been working out a few ideas in GarageBand. I’m a little busy with other things right now, so if the idea of a Harley version doesn’t repel you, you may have to wait for a recorded version.

In the meantime, here’s rather a good article I found that covers a lot of the same ground, by Dave Byrne for the Boston Review: Ground Down to Molasses – The Making of an American Folk Song.

David Harley

Handsome Molly [demo]

Audio capture:



Studio version (needs remix):



Trying a different arrangement:



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

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 years 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.)

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 or two, I’m feeling a lot more comfortable with it. N.B. my tune is not related to the reel of the same name.



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