Posted by: David Harley | March 17, 2019

Scratchpad…

Miscellaneous tune: basically here so that I don’t forget it, in case it comes in useful later on.

‘Home from the Ball’: rough arrangement of a song I just rediscovered. (I think the last time I played it in public was in the 70s!)

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Posted by: David Harley | March 3, 2019

Ballad of the Arbor Tree [rough demo]

This is the second demo version: still rough, but now with some basic guitar.

I came across this set of words in a discussion on the Memories of Shropshire Facebook group, and somehow found myself putting a tune to it as I read. This version of the tune is one of my ‘make it up as you go along’ recordings: it may well change significantly over time, and is not in any case consistent between all the verses.

By W.B.H. and apparently dated 29th May 1786, though that may have referred to the wedding that took place on that date rather than the date of printing. It seems that the modern Arbor Day celebration is held on the last Sunday in May rather than strictly on the 29th. The Aston Clun celebration is closely linked with Oak Apple Day as well as with the wedding of 1786. I don’t know exactly when this was published, but the somewhat random initcapping and the use of a ‘thin space’ before colons and question marks is characteristic of an earlier school of typography, perhaps as far back as the late 18th century.

In Aston Clun I stand, a tree,
A Poplar dressed, like a ship at sea.
Lonely link with an age long past :
Of Arbor Trees, I am the last.

Since seventeen-eighty-six, My Day
Is writ, the twenty 9th of May.
When new flags fly and we rejoice,
New life has stilled harsh Winter’s voice.

To greet a Squire’s lovely bride
Did tenants dress my boughs with pride ?
But Old Wives say, my flags are worn
To mark the day an heir was born.

Wise men, mellow o’er evening ale,
Old feuds and wicked deeds retail.
Thanksgiving dressed my arms, they say
For Peace, when blood feuds died away.

Did here ! my father mark the rite
Of Shepherd’s, gone with world’s first light ?
Was England merrie neath his shade
Till crop-Haired Cromwell joy forbade ?

In sixteen-sixty with the Spring
Came Merry Charles the exiled king.
Did he proclaim May twenty-nine
“Arbor Day” for revelry and wine ?

And Shepherds, plagued with pox and chills
Turn to the old ways of the hills,
To “Mystic Poplar”, to renew
Fertility in field and ewe ?

Stand I, for Ancient ways, for Birth,
For Love, for Peace, for Joy and Mirth?
Riddle my riddle as you will
I stand for good and not for ill.

And if my dress your fancy please
Help my flags to ride the breeze
That you with me, will in the Sun,
Welcome all, to the Vale of Clun.

A Research Article from April, 2003, by John Box gives some very useful information. It’s available from a number of places but, most appropriately, here:  https://hopesayparish.com/arbor%20tree/dressing%20the%20tree.html

Here’s the Abstract:

The custom of dressing the black poplar growing in Aston-on-Clun in south Shropshire – known as the Arbor Tree – with flags on flagpoles every 29 May is unique in Britain. New flags are attached to wooden flagpoles on the tree that remain throughout the year. Written records of the Arbor Tree only extend back to 1898, but the tradition of dressing the tree is reputed to date back to a local wedding in 1786. The article attempts to establish the history and context of the tradition and shows how the custom has developed and acquired new meanings, particularly since 1955 when a pageant was devised. The pageant and the celebrations associated with the tree dressing are evolving in response to those living in the local community as well as to the external recognition now accorded to this unique tradition.

Posted by: David Harley | February 22, 2019

Now how long?

Now How Long?

Heard some lonesome whistle blow

How long Lord?

I guess it must be time to go

How long?

When you get those hard luck blues

All you need is walking shoes

How long Lord?

Now how long?

 

Empty pockets, empty bed

How long Lord?

Empty dreams in an empty head

How long?

When you get those walking blues

Radio just plays bad news

How long Lord?

Now how long?

 

Standing by the railroad track

How long Lord?

Heading out with no way back

How long?

Waiting in the pouring rain

Must have missed that Gospel Train

How long Lord?

Now how long?

 

[Optional]

When you hear those cold winds blow

How long Lord?

You know the way you have to go

How long?

Thought I heard the DJ say

Got no reason left to stay

How long Lord?

Now how long?

Posted by: David Harley | February 3, 2019

This guitar just plays the blues 2019

Posted by: David Harley | January 15, 2019

Blackwaterside

Drop D version

Barebones version:

Longer version with intro

 

 

Posted by: David Harley | January 13, 2019

Coasting [demo]

The nights pass slowly, but they pass:
The days are paper-thin.
Life goes on much as usual:
Some games I lose, some I win.
Sometimes I feel that I’m sleepwalking
Through the streets of this grey city,
But then, it’s only been a month or two.
It’s not the first time that I’ve coasted
Through the routine chores of living
And I’ll make it this time too
After you…

Today I walked in sunlight though the wind blew cold
Through my coat:
I thought about the coming spring, and I swear somewhere
I felt a twinge of hope.
I don’t expect to hear from you. I guess that’s how it should be:
There’s no point in chasing dreams that won’t come true.
It’s not the first time that I’ve coasted through the aftermath of loving
And I’ll make it this time too
After you…

Sometimes I take a weekend walk by these muddy city shores
And old man river talks to me
But I can’t quite understand: my feet stay locked to the dry land
So he drifts on with the seasons out to sea

The weeks pass slowly but they pass
And I drift from phase to phase.
I’m sick of wishing you were here to help me
Through these bleak and restless days.
Sometimes I think I’m waking into another nightmare,
But it passes, as these feelings often do.
It’s not the first time I’ve been lonely, nor the first time I’ve been left,
And I’ll make it this time too
After you…

Posted by: David Harley | October 21, 2018

How to say goodbye (live version)

Taken from Ian Semple’s radio show on CoastFM, summer 2018.

David Harley

Posted by: David Harley | October 16, 2018

Snowbird

A version recorded live for a CoastFM Live Lounge session.

Posted by: David Harley | October 8, 2018

Wrekin [demo]

Wrekin (words and music by David Harley)

The Abbey watches my train crawling southward
Thoughts of Cadfael kneeling in his cell
All along the Marches line, myth and history, prose and rhyme
But those are tales I won’t be here to tell

The hill is crouching like a cat at play
Its beacon flashing red across the plain
Once we were all friends around the Wrekin
But some will never pass this way again

Lawley and Caradoc fill my windows
Facing down the Longmynd, lost in rain
But I’m weighed down with the creaks and groans of all the years I’ve known
And I don’t think I’ll walk these hills again

The hill is crouching like a cat at play
Its beacon flashing red across the plain
Once we were all friends around the Wrekin
But some will never pass this way again

Stokesay dreams its humble glories
Glories that will never come again
Across the Shropshire hills, the rain is blowing still
But the Marcher Lords won’t ride this way gain

The hill is crouching like a cat at play
Its beacon flashing red across the plain
Once we were all friends around the Wrekin
But some will never pass this way again

The royal ghosts of Catherine and Arthur
May walk the paths of Whitcliffe now and then
Housman’s ashes grace the Cathedral of the Marches
He will not walk Ludlow’s streets again

The hill is crouching like a cat at play
Its beacon flashing red across the plain
Once we were all friends around the Wrekin
But some will never pass this way again

And I may never pass this way again

Posted by: David Harley | October 7, 2018

My Boy Jack [demo]

My setting of the poem by Rudyard Kipling. It’s often assumed that it refers to the loss of his son John, presumed killed at the Battle of Loos in 1915. The confusion was probably increased by the TV adaptation of David Craig’s play, which missed out the 3rd Act and finished with Kipling reciting the poem. However, while Kipling’s own grief did, no doubt, contribute to the overall tone of the poem, it was first published at the top of a series of articles on the Battle of Jutland, in which the British fleet sustained heavy losses, and it seems to me (and others) that, given the importance of ‘the tide’ in the poem, that the name Jack probably reflects the more generic ‘Jack Tar’. (While the earlier ‘Tommy; has a very different tone, it does use the generic name ‘Tommy Atkins’ in a somewhat similar way.)

‘My Boy Jack’
1914-18

“HAVE you news of my boy Jack? ”
Not this tide.
“When d’you think that he’ll come back?”
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.

“Has any one else had word of him?”
Not this tide.
For what is sunk will hardly swim,
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.

“Oh, dear, what comfort can I find?”
None this tide,
Nor any tide,
Except he did not shame his kind—
Not even with that wind blowing, and that tide.

Then hold your head up all the more,
This tide,
And every tide;
Because he was the son you bore,
And gave to that wind blowing and that tide. 

David Harley

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