Wearing out my shoes [remastered]

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. .

David Harley

 

 

Six White Horses (traditional)

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.

Backup:

David Harley

Swifts and Swans

A lengthy piece that combines my guitar solo ‘Swifts’ with my setting of a poem by W.B. Yeats – ‘The Wild Swans at Coole’. Unfortunately, the guitar is poorly recorded in places.

For this more recent version, the guitar sounds better but it’s not the best I’ve ever sung it. And there are some bits of the guitar part in the older version I like. I guess the answer is to have yet another shot at it, but in the meantime…

And here’s the poem.

The Wild Swans at Coole

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?

When I was (suite) – demo revisited and remastered

Several decades ago, I put a tune to ‘A Shropshire Lad’ XVIII:

Oh, when I was in love with you
Then I was clean and brave,
And miles around the wonder grew
How well did I behave.

But now the fancy passes by
And nothing will remain,
And miles around they say that I
Am quite myself again.

For a long time I sang that (occasionally) unaccompanied. More recently, it occurred to me that the same tune also fitted XIII ‘When I was one-and-twenty…’ and that the two actually had a thematic connection. So I put together a suite of the two, both accompanied on guitar, and also including an instrumental interlude. I’m still working on a final recording of that, which might also include an instrumental version of ‘Down by the Salley Gardens’: indeed, Sally Goddard and I were discussing a live set a couple of years ago that would have included all three songs. Recently, I reverted to an unaccompanied version of XVIII as sung here. And that might be the way I do XVIII in the final version. Here, however, is a remastered version of an early take on the combination of XVIII and XIII, including a quasi-orchestral interlude. (It’s actually a Yamaha keyboard, since that was the nearest thing to a real orchestra I had to hand!)

Watch this space for further developments…

David Harley

Adventures in Video: ‘The Fancy Passes’

‘The Fancy Passes’ is part of a suite of settings of verse by A.E. Housman.

This one is XVIII in ‘A Shropshire Lad’.

Oh, when I was in love with you
Then I was clean and brave,
And miles around the wonder grew
How well did I behave.

But now the fancy passes by
And nothing will remain,
And miles around they say that I
Am quite myself again.

The full suite also includes an instrumental interlude followed by XIII ‘When I was one-and-twenty…’ I’m still working on a final recording of that.

This unaccompanied video version was my entry for the May 2020 Trad2Mad competition held by Islington Folk Club. It didn’t win, but that’s unsurprising, given the very high standard of singing that I generally associate with that club. Unfortunately, I’ll probably never get to play there again, given that I’m the wrong side of 70 and living in Cornwall…

David Harley

Adventures in video: “Thomas Anderson – a Jacobite Tragedy”

This is actually already available as a podcast, but I thought it might benefit from some pictures… I’ve used the (home-)recorded version of the song with several overdubs here, not a live version, and that takes up about half the video. Much more of the backstory here. 

David Harley

A Perfect Cocktail [early demo]

Words & Music (c) David Harley

And yes, I agree that blaming the person for whom you have an unrequited passion is not healthy or politically correct. This is a work of fiction, not autobiography. 🙂 Now I have to learn it, as I’ve promised to sing it next Saturday.

Who’s driving nails into my lonely bed?
Who sent images scurrying through my head?
You…

We mixed a perfect cocktail, you and I
How come now my cup is dry?

How come these days I drink so much alone?
Who’s to blame if I end up stoned?
You…

And we mixed a perfect cocktail, you and I
How come now my cup is dry?

Who leaves me here, lying all alone?
Who asks six weeks later why I didn’t phone?
You…

And we mixed a perfect cocktail, you and I
How come now my cup is dry?

Who’s driving nails into my lonely bed?
Who sent images scurrying through my head?
You…

And we mixed a perfect cocktail, you and I
How come now my cup is dry?

 

A Rainy-Day Blues revisited

Words and Music (c) David Harley

A cleaner recording than the previous audio version.

And here’s a video, this time played on electric guitar.

 

Earlier versions:

This is a version with just basic guitar:

This is the same version with some overdubbed bouzouki: an instrument I’ve only recently added to my arsenal, so not very well executed, but I think it might go quite well with a bit of work. Maybe different lead instruments for each break…

And here’s a more recent version, slightly rearranged.

David Harley

Marking Time [demo]

Marking Time (Words by Fiona Freeman, tune by David Harley): (c) 1976

Sadly, I lost touch with Fiona Freeman decades ago. If she or anyone who knows/knew her happens across this page and cares to get in touch, please do. Sorry, no reward, not even royalties (there aren’t any, so far….)

We both know the lines
And we both know the score
And we sit drinking scotch
With no time for one more

And the time shuffles past
Like a drunk in a bar
Our hands meet and lock
Trying to cover the scar

And just like a sundial
The shadow moves round
Helping to darken the good news
We just found

Outside our four walls
There’s another day’s rain
Inside our two minds
Another day’s pain

Now down the road walking
Our footsteps in rhyme
It seems for so long
We’ve been just marking time

David Harley

Adventures in Video (8)

A song I wrote some time ago, but may have acquired particular resonance during the Covid-19 lockdown. I’ve put up an audio version here previously, but I’ve changed the structure slightly, and more or less learned the tune now. I’ll have to take another run at the audio version anyway: the levels are a bit low on this video – I’m still trying to find the best setup for video in my tiny office/studio.

The Jailer (Harley) 

The train will soon be leaving
And the man says ‘all aboard’
But you never leave the platform
And you never cut the cord

Most days you think of leaving
But he’ll always talk you round
His words will talk you into silence
And his arms will hold you down

You need so much to leave him
But there’s no one you can phone
There’s no ticket in your pocket
And you’ve no money of your own

Sometimes he tells you that you’re stupid
Sometimes he tells you that you’re ill
You dream of breaking free
And yet you don’t believe you will

He knows just where you are
Every moment of the day
He hears the thoughts inside your head
He owns the very words you say

He says that you’re his lover
And that’s all you’ll ever be
But you know he’s your jailer
And he’ll never set you free

Sometimes he’ll loosen your shackles
But you’re locked inside his head
And you’ve never found the way
To leave his arms or leave his bed

There’s nowhere you can go
And there’s nothing you can say
Because he knows you’ll never leave him
And that’s exactly why you stay

[break]

The train will soon be leaving
And the man says ‘all aboard’
But you never leave the platform
And you never cut the cord

(All rights reserved)

David Harley