Sarah McQuaid – The Sun Goes On Rising

Sarah ends her series of singles from the forthcoming album The St. Buryan Sessions with a lovely, blues-y song co-written with Gerry O’Beirne a decade or so ago, and previously recorded on the excellent 2012 album The Plum Tree And The Rose. 

To my ear this version seems a little slower than the previous version, and benefits from the ambience of the venue and perhaps an indefinable maturity of delivery. But judge for yourselves: the video of the single is on YouTube here, while the earlier album and 3-track single (and much else, including the previous singles from the St. Buryan album) can be found on Sarah’s Bandcamp page.

The St. Buryan’s Sessions album is due for release on October 15th 2021: while there are no plans to release any more singles from it, but there may be more videos (Sarah’s YouTube channel is here). I don’t mind either way: I have a copy of the album to look forward to!

David Harley


‘Ten Percent Blues’ Album

Now available (and listenable) at Bandcamp.

1. Make It Pay 01:30
2. Butterfly (Over The Hill) 03:43
3. The Road 03:13
4. Anywhere 03:12
5. Ten Percent Blues 03:42
6. Now How Long 03:45
7. Blues For Davy 02:01
8. Baby What A Groove 02:52
9. Another Bangor Day 04:12
10. Long Cigarettes, Cheap Red Wine 04:22
11. Moonstruck 01:30
12. Angel [demo version] 02:15
13. East River 03:07
14. Empty Sunday [demo version] 02:09

You might regard this album title as an over-extended pun. Not only does it include more blues/American-influenced material than my previous albums (though I’m not sure how to quantify the exact percentage), but it also draws some inspiration (if that’s the right word) from life on the road. Though in fact my own time as a professional musician was extremely short, and no agent was getting very fat on ten percent of my income at that time. And at this time of my life, I don’t think I’ll be spending much time playing live again, let alone living in a tour bus.

If I ever belonged to a particular ‘school’ of songwriter, it was probably that very English group that included people like Bill Caddick, Peter Bond, Bernie Parry et al. (Whatever happened to Al?) Still, looking back (as I have been a lot recently) to the songs I’ve written in the last 50-60 years, I suspect that there is enough material there for at least one more album with a fair amount of Americana influence.

Released May 19, 2021

All songs, guitars and vocals by David A. Harley

(c) all rights reserved

The Road [demo]

Early version of a song from the projected album ‘Ten Percent Blues’. And no, it’s not autobiographical: my own short spell on the road ended in the 70s, and I’ve no particular wish to resume that particular phase of my career at my age.

Words and music (c) David A. Harley

It’s late and the driver has nothing to say
One more stop ahead on an endless highway
One more place to be, and nowhere to stay
For the road was the ruin of me

The tour bus, the tranny, the fluffed chords of fame
The days in the airport, the runaway train
You don’t care for my songs and you don’t know my name
For the road was the ruin of me

I was never a drifter, I’d no urge to roam
But somehow the tour bus became my home
The scenery fades and the scene is long gone
And the road was the ruin of me

The smoke and the pipe dream, the whisky, the beer
There’s nothing to treasure and nothing to fear
There’s no one here now to send out for some gear
And the road was the ruin of me

The call of the wild, and the song of the road
The end of the game and the call of the void
There’s no one to meet and there’s nowhere to hide
The road was the ruin of me

The heroes and villains, the bait and the switch
The hole in my sock and the travelling itch
I’ll never be famous, I’ll never be rich
For the road was the ruin of me

I drank much too deep at the wishing well
I knew what I wanted but never could tell
Now I’ve only these dreams and these few words to sell
For the road was the ruin of me

All that I’ve learned is how little I know
All I’ve come home to is a new place to go
And it’s never a place that I wanted to be
For the road was the ruin of me

The Game of London (album)

It seems perverse to have released an album on Bandcamp and not even mention it here, though I did put up a demo of the title track a while back. So here’s a belated link to the album and a terse rundown of the tracks. I really ought to get around to promoting this…

1. The Miles Between (the City and the Heart)
2. The Game of London
3. Coasting 2023
4. Same Old Same Old
5. Walls
6. 17-Year Itch
7. London 1983 (Heatwave)
8. Cooling Out 02:52
9. Paper City 05:25
10. The Weekends (are the Worst)
11. Diving Butterfly (Air and Slip Jig)
12. Death of a Marriage
13. Silk and Steel
14. Coasting 1983

‘London 1983’ (the song formerly known as ‘Heatwave’) was recorded at Hallmark Studios W1, and features James Bolam on piano.

Tracks 9 and 11-14 were recorded at Centre Sound, Camden. ‘Diving Butterfly’ features Peter Wilkes on fiddle and Gail Williams on bodhrán.

All vocals and all other instruments are me.

I’ll put up a page with links to my other recordings Real Soon Now.

David Harley




Trencrom – a Woolf at the Door

One of my friends on Facebook drew my attention to an excellent blog article from 2019 by The Cornish Bird about Virginia Woolf in Cornwall. While I was vaguely aware of Virginia Woolf’s connection with Cornwall and in particular with the Godrevy lighthouse, which partially inspired her 1927 novel To The Lighthouse (I’m going to have to reread it now), I hadn’t realized how large a part the county had played in her life. Nor had I realized that on a spontaneous visit at Christmas 1909, she recorded paying a visit to Trencrom hill, very close to the engine house that gives its name to this blog.

Wheal Alice and Trencrom’s Iron Age hill fort 

As Elizabeth Dale says in her article, Trencrom (or Trecobben) is indeed “a place full of history and legend”: I was very aware of that when I wrote the song ‘Cornish Ghosts’, which took shape while I was doing my daily walks around and on the hill. The next time I walk to the top, not many minutes from where I’m writing this, I’ll surely think of Virginia Woolf sitting there in the mist.

David Harley

The Game of London [demo]

The first version of this was written in the 1970s: I remembered it suddenly as a possible title for a current album project, and finally found the lyric. I did tweak the lyric somewhat to make it less gender-specific. A version will probably appear on the album.

No, it isn’t autobiographical…

Jack in the Box

Down in the workhouse when I was a lad
No tongue can relate all the pleasures we had
Dry bread, and Bastille soup by the bowl
And a flogging or two for the good of our souls x2

A tale I recall of those happy times
And an orphan lad always to mischief inclined
He was ever in line for a kick, at the best
And the poor workhouse master could scarcely find rest

Till came the day one of the other lads died
“Aha!” says the master, “I’ll settle your pride!”
He shut up the lad in the dead-house to stay
Alone with the coffin until the next day

But what should Jack do but open the box
He takes out the corpse, and with it swaps clothes
Props it up on the rail at the top of the stairs
Then he hops in the box and the winding-sheet wears

And when it grew dark, the master came up
With a plate for Jack, some victuals to sup
Holds it out to the corpse on the rail
Who says not a word, but stands stiff, cold and pale

“Well, take it!” the master says in surprise
“I should think you’d be starving by now, damn your eyes!”
Then up leaps Jack, who was lying so still
And says “If he wunna eat it, I will!”

When the master heard this he got such a fright
He let go of the plate, and turned whiter than white
Gave a terrible shriek, such a fright did he get
Fell back down the stairs and near broke his neck

Wasn’t that a sad fall for a man such as he
So kind to his charges, with his boot so free?
So pity the poor who must live on the roll
And think on the guardians and pray for their souls

A half-written song of mine based on a story of Knighton workhouse from ‘An idler on the Shropshire borders’, by Ida Gandy. Told to her by Ellen Hughes (nee Jordan) 1864-1940 also known as Granny Hughes. Many thanks to her granddaughter Denise Lewis of the Memories of Shropshire FB group for the information and photograph.

The song doesn’t doesn’t have a tune yet.

(c) David Harley