An interesting resource for folkies

Recommended to me by my friend Andi Lee (The Ashen): a Mixcloud podcast series by Jon Wilks at The Old Songs Podcast. Here’s the current listing:

  • Ep12 – The Old Songs Podcast – ‘Banks of Green Willow’, ft. Cohen Braithwaite-Kilcoyne
  • Ep11 – The Old Songs Podcast – ‘Lord Gregory’, ft. Burd Ellen
  • Ep10: The Old Songs Podcast – ‘The Leaving Of Liverpool’, ft. Jim Moray
  • Ep9: The Old Songs Podcast – ‘Myn Mair’, ft. Owen Shiers (Cynefin)
  • Ep8: The Old Songs Podcast – ‘Hal-An-Tow’ ft. Lisa Knapp
  • Ep7: The Old Songs Podcast – ‘Dives and Lazarus’ ft. Nick Hart
  • Ep6: The Old Songs Podcast – ‘Hard Times Of Old England’ ft. Billy Bragg
  • Ep5: The Old Songs Podcast – ‘An Acre of Land’ ft. Paul Sartin
  • Episode 4 – “The Sweet Nightingale” The Old Songs Podcast with Jackie Oates & Jon Wilks
  • Episode 3 – “On Humber Bank” The Old Songs Podcast with Jon Wilks & Ben Walker
  • Episode 2 – “Tam Lin” The Old Songs Podcast with Jon Wilks & Jim Moray
  • Episode 1: “Henry Martin / Lofty Tall Ship” The Old Songs Podcast with Jon Wilks & Nick Hart

I’ve been dipping in and out of UK and Irish folk music for many decades now, and am well-acquainted with most of these songs, but still found much to enjoy here.

David Harley

Seventeen-year itch (Harley)

At the time I wrote this, even being forty didn’t seem something I needed to identify with: all the other stuff seemed far, far away. So not too many biographical clues here. 🙂 In fact, I used to precede it with ‘Love Hurts’ so that you had two diversely miserable love stories together: however, I don’t think I could get away with singing ‘I’m young, I know…’ these days.

Backup:

An older version with solo electric guitar.

Backup

Words and Music by David Harley, copyright 1986

Front tyre blew
Tax overdue
Picked up
A parking fine or two

Gas bill trouble
Rent is doubled
You say
“NOW what’s wrong with you?”

Dentures slipping
Nervous twitch
17-year-itch

I’m underpaid and overweight
So let’s go and celebrate

Who said life begins at 40?

Kids are listening
Separate beds
Bitter thoughts
In separate heads

Kids are screaming
Dogs are howling
Milk gone bad
We’re out of bread

So I leer at typists
Wonder which
Might scratch
My seventeen year itch

I must have wasted
So much time
The other side
Of 39

Monday morning
Bus queue blues
MOT
Overdue

My head is bursting
My eyes need testing
Sorry
That I snapped at you

Sorry
Sorry
Always saying sorry
Always praying
There might be some peace sometime
The other side of 65
But would it be so hard to be
Another aging divorcee?

 

David Harley

 

Walls [demo]

backup:

Last time I saw Jeannine, we lost most of our time
In the company of friends who were neither hers nor mine

Castaways in different cities, working through some breaks
Regretting our vocations, scared of making more mistakes

And we talked of where we’d been
How we’d passed the interim
Since the last time together, building up
A wall of coffee cups and cigarette ends
Keeping our last rendezvous
At least, it looks to be the last we’ll keep

The last time I saw Jeannine, we lost most of our time
Talking of ourselves in terms of once upon a time

Clinging to the wreckage of lives we’d left behind
Hoping for the miracle we lost somewhere in time

And shied away from conversation
Of ourselves but in relation
To each other, but together, building up
A wall of alibis half-spoken
And chances we were missing
At least, from here it seems we’ve missed them all

By David Harley, copyright 1973

The first line does, I suppose, invite comparison with Joni Mitchell’s ‘The Last Time I Saw Richard’, though I didn’t hear that until several years later. But I suppose you could also compare it to ‘The Last Time I Saw Paris’ or ‘Last Time He Saw Marie‘ if you really wanted, and you’d still be wrong. Personally I prefer the Mitchell song, but this has a certain nostalgic je ne sais quoi. See what I did there?

And for anyone whose interested in any biographical elements, the lady’s name wasn’t Jeannine or Richard, and it was Bangor (North Wales), not Paris. 

I just realized that I also used the line ‘Last time I saw…’ in Diane. Probably Diane is the better song, and written about someone completely different. Whose name was not Diane, Richard or Jeannine. 

Anyway, I promise not to use the line again. Probably. 

(So much for) Romance

(words and music by Don MacLeod)

[There may be an updated version of this eventually.]

Backup:

I could spend my time just watching you
Seeing all the things you want to do
What you’re going through
It’s all so new, it’s strange somehow

Continue reading “(So much for) Romance”

She’s Gone

She’s Gone (by Don MacLeod and David Harley)
All Rights Reserved

Backup:

She’s gone: too bad…
And I wanted so much more
But now, too late,
I see what she was looking for
Wasn’t me at all
Just a lay-by
On the road to bigger things

Continue reading “She’s Gone”

Circle

Words and music by David Harley: all rights reserved

Backup:

This is the preface Wilfred Owen drafted for a collection of war poems intended for publication in 1919.

“This book is not about heroes. English poetry is not yet fit to speak of them.

Nor is it about deeds, or lands, nor anything about glory, honour, might, majesty, dominion, or power, except War.

Above all I am not concerned with Poetry.

My subject is War, and the pity of War.

The Poetry is in the pity.

Yet these elegies are to this generation in no sense consolatory. They may be to the next. All a poet can do today is warn. That is why the true Poets must be truthful.

(If I thought the letter of this book would last, I might have used proper names; but if the spirit of it survives – survives Prussia – my ambition and those names will have achieved fresher fields than Flanders…)”

I quote it here because every year it seems to me that we give too much credence to

The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

I wrote this song out of disrespect. Not disrespecting those who suffer and die in battle or as a less direct result of warfare, whether or not the world called them heroes; not disrespecting those who lived on, suffering injury or the loss of loved one; but I have no respect at all for those whose ‘respect’ is founded on seeking political and commercial advantage. When I added this note in 2015, that cynical capitalization on tragedy seems, if anything, even more in evidence than it was in the 1980s.

Sleep well old man, and don’t look down from some heavenly aerie
To see the edifice we’ve built on your philosophy
The sacrificial fires below bear the devil’s mark
But it was hands a lot like yours that struck the first spark

Continue reading “Circle”

Southside

Recently rediscovered version with some slide overdubbed.

Backup:

 

Acoustic version recorded for Ian Semple’s show on Coast FM, but not actually used on that occasion.

Backup:

 

And an old electric version.

Backup:

 

Words & Music by David Harley, copyright 1987

I’ve got a woman on the Southside
Two more above the timberline
But it’s you, you, you
In my heart and on my mind

I followed you across the city
Anywhere your footprints led
But I just can’t stand to think of you
In that other man’s bed

I’m going across the river
To some bar where the lights don’t burn too bright
I might need you so bad right now
But I won’t even know your name by midnight

I’m leaving soon one morning
For any place my footsteps fall
If I can’t pay the fare
I’ll walk till I have to crawl

Carpenter Street [demo]

Words & music (c) David Harley

Sometime in 2014 I suddenly remembered this song from the early 70s and put down a basic track, then got excited and put in some sketchy harmonies and a bit of lead. So it has some decent ideas but very hasty execution. Obviously I intended to come back to it but forgot all about it until I took advantage of temporary (I hope) joint issues to do some housekeeping on my music blogs. I hope to get back to this one Real Soon Now and clean up the harmonies, but in the meantime here’s a version lightly remastered to bring up the volume. Which you may think is a mistake. 😉

Backup:

It’s my beat
if I care to shuffle my feet
I don’t need saving
from Carpenter Street

I think I’ll throw a party
Asking all my friends
Turn on the lights and music
I’ll be leaving then

It’s my beat
if I care to shuffle my feet
I don’t need saving
from Carpenter Street

Damn you girl
You did your worst for me
Then swept away
On a wave of ESP

Sometimes I tell myself
You didn’t hurt so much
But still that irony
Is such a slender crutch

Paper constellations
Still have words to say
But really nothing changes
Since you went away

I have wings of silver
I have eyes of glass
You could have flown with me
All you had to do was a

Hands of the Craftsman

Words & music (c) David Harley

Backup:

Minutes ago as God measures time
Something manlike emerged from the primeval slime:
Ever since, Mother Nature has been on the run
From a hand with four fingers and opposable thumb.
That hand learned to grip, then it learned to shape
Flint into a weapon, then a tool to shape,
To build and to kill, and around then it learned
To strike sparks to bring fire and lighten man’s world.

Continue reading “Hands of the Craftsman”

Adventures in Video – On Bredon

I haven’t been doing live videos lately, for a couple of reasons, but there seems to be a backlog of things I’ve put on YouTube, but haven’t told anyone about…

This is Bredon Hill (Housman-Harley) – one of my settings from A Shropshire Lad.

Audio capture mastered to raise the volume:

Backup:

In summertime on Bredon
The bells they sound so clear;
Round both the shires they ring them
In steeples far and near,
A happy noise to hear.

Here of a Sunday morning
My love and I would lie,
And see the coloured counties,
And hear the larks so high
About us in the sky.

The bells would ring to call her
In valleys miles away:
“Come all to church, good people;
Good people, come and pray.”
But here my love would stay.

And I would turn and answer
Among the springing thyme,
“Oh, peal upon our wedding,
And we will hear the chime,
And come to church in time.”

But when the snows at Christmas
On Bredon top were strown,
My love rose up so early
And stole out unbeknown
And went to church alone.

They tolled the one bell only,
Groom there was none to see,
The mourners followed after,
And so to church went she,
And would not wait for me.

The bells they sound on Bredon
And still the steeples hum.
“Come all to church, good people,”–
Oh, noisy bells, be dumb;
I hear you, I will come.

David Harley