Review for folking.com

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

Here’s a link to my first music review for folking.com (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 Folking.com’s brief will probably be posted first here.

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

David Harley

Gooseberry Blues [demo]

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.

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

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