Unnamed slide piece demo

Update: this has now acquired a name and an updated version – ‘Box of Blue‘.

A piece so new and raw it doesn’t even have a name. I was basically just goofing around with a Maj7 tuning that I thought might have possibilities.

Hopefully, at some point the piece will turn up here better and more tightly executed (and with a proper name). In fact, I even have a set of words that might fit it. But this version is just here so that I don’t forget about it.

David Harley

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Forever (still) Autumn

While our little corner of Cornwall seems to be in the grip of Winter – though perhaps a milder Winter than most parts of the country have been enjoying – I seem to have found a time tunnel back to Autumn.

While looking for the words to ‘Autumn Song’ by Harvey Andrews – yes, it’s now crept back into my repertoire, though I don’t know if I’ll ever sing it in public – I came across a YouTube video of Sarah McQuaid singing ‘Forever Autumn’, a song sung by Justin Hayward* for Jeff Wayne’s ‘War of the Worlds’ project from 1978 (and revisited in 2012, when it was sung by Gary Barlow). This was quite a while ago, but I was reminded of it when I exchanged some email with Sarah about her forthcoming CD, which includes a version of ‘Forever Autumn’.

The video is a live, solo version from the Southdown Folk Festival, so I don’t know how close it is to the recorded version, but, having heard it again, I’m more than ever looking forward to hearing (and reviewing) the album and the launch concert at The Acorn in Penzance on January 25th. I know that Penzance is so far West that even the inhabitants of Truro don’t come down here without carrying their passports, but I note that there are plenty of other places on Sarah’s tour schedule around the time of the CD release, if this video and the ‘Tug of the Moon‘ video have whetted your appetite.

*It seems that Justin Hayward is still doing a good job of promoting ‘Forever Autumn’. In this video he sings it very nicely, but it’s almost worth listening to it just for the entertaining story with which he introduces it.

David Harley

Sarah McQuaid – Digging the new CD

A forthcoming album by Sarah McQuaid that I’m looking forward to reviewing.

This article isn’t about Michael Chapman, but bear with me… Towards the end of the 1960s I acquired his album Rainmaker, and found him to be an innovative guitarist and very distinctive singer/songwriter/. (I remember confusing one of my friends by saying that a song of his reminded me pleasantly of Michael Chapman, until I realized that he thought I meant that Chinnichap chap! ) I played Rainmaker a lot in my teens, and it certainly influenced my early guitar playing. Ironically, I finally parted with the album, along with nearly all my other vinyl, when moving to Cornwall.

Ironically? Well, mildly, in that it’s since that move to Cornwall that his name has recently crossed my radar again. Specifically, as producer of the forthcoming 5th album by the very talented Sarah McQuaid, a well-known name not only here in Cornwall, but far beyond.

Interestingly, Sarah not only shares but exceeds my own passion for the DAGDAD guitar tuning, having written a book and developed two workshops on using it. But her singing and songwriting has earned her many fans who may not know much about modal tunings, but appreciate a fine performance.

I’m looking forward to reviewing her new album If We Dig Any Deeper It Could Get Dangerous nearer to the release date (due out 2nd February 2018). In the meantime, you might like to check out the track The Tug Of The Moon, which is on the album but was released as a single in November 2017: see Mawgan Lewis’s intriguing video here.

David Harley

Make Mine A Snowball [revisited]

For years this was just a single verse stranded in the first draft of a novel I’ll probably never finish now, and then a few years ago it demanded to be finished. Apologies to both Howard Blake and Raymond Briggs, who might not approve. 

Its first public appearance was after the funeral of my friend Graham Bell. That might seem less strange if I tell you that the service finished with the Ying Tong Song. Graham was always urging me to play more jazz, but I think he would have approved of this even without the vaguely jazzy snatch of White Christmas that precedes it.  I don’t know how Irving Berlin would have felt about it, but at least I haven’t had any ghostly visitors on the nights leading up to Christmas. So far. Bah Humbug!  It certainly proves conclusively that I was not born to compete with Wes Montgomery or Barney Kessel, but it’s nice to give the Strat an airing occasionally. 

The first part was recorded on primitive handheld equipment: today I re-did the acoustic section on the Boss 8-track I use for demo stuff. I still plan one day to take a more careful run at it  in my recently updated home studio and do a little OTT overdubbing. I’m thinking celeste, harpsichord and orchestra. (I have a Yamaha keyboard and I’m not afraid to use it.) 

Not that this is ever going to be translated to a commercial recording. 🙂 

I’m snoring in my chair
I’ve really had too much to eat
And even if I tried
I couldn’t leave my seat.

I’m getting very tight:
I didn’t need those lasht two beersh
And now that last mince pie
Has dribbled down my brand new tie.

Somebody offered me another cup of tea
Turkey sandwich, more plum pudding, woe is me…

I’m sprawling on the stairs
I haven’t got the strength to rise
And dear old Auntie Jill
Is in the bathroom still.

I’ve turned off the TV
The Queen’s speech was keeping one awake
And one more Singing Nun
Is more than I can take

Uncle Dick is feeling sick, he’s running for the loo
Heaving like a mighty monster from the zoo

I’m surfing in my lair
Googling for some online deals
To spend next Christmas Day
On a cruise ship far away…

David Harley 

Castles and Kings [demo] (again)

[I keep putting versions of this up, but the vocal is a bit better on this version… The final version will probably also include a version of Vestapol, as did earlier versions. But I’ll come back to that.]

When I was a kid in a country town
and I’d nothing better to do:
I’d detour round by the railway bridge
on my way home from school.

Leaning over the bridge with my chin in my hands,
too young to be wondering why,
I’d wait what seemed hours for the signal to change:
wait for a train to go by

The lure of the footplate, the churn of the rods
straining to places unknown;
fog in November, smoke in the cold air
the faraway steam-whistle moan;

bathing my eyes in the warmth of the lights
as up the track she would fly.
I’d get home late: they’d ask ‘Where have you been?’
I’d say ‘watching the trains go by’…

Saturday lunchtime some days in the spring
with the sky an implacable blue,
collecting the numbers of Castles and Kings:
it’s all we’d want to do.

Perspective of steel cut through frostbitten green,
just went on to a faraway end,
and I always felt sad at the Cambrian’s tail-light
as she’d disappear round the bend.

Now trains mean timetables, luggage and waiting rooms,
leaving the people I love;
the pounding of diesels, the A to B run
– perspective has subtly moved.

Tonight I am free and the rails are still endless
(if I had the fare to ride)
but I stand on a footbridge in the heart of the city
watching the Tube trains go by.

David Harley