This Guitar Just Plays The Blues…

However, this is rather more country than country blues.

A trace of your scent still lingers on my pillow
And raises echoes in my memory
And I believe you’re missing me almost as much as I miss you
But I wish to God that you were here with me

The sun will surely rise on another soft blue morning
And lying in your arms is where I’ll be
With sweet dreams still in my eyes, I’ll wake and kiss your hair
But it’s a long cold night while you’re not here with me

This guitar once played for keeps, but since you changed my life
This guitar just plays for you, if that’s OK?
This guitar rang bells for losers, but there’ll be no more songs of losing
Though this guitar just plays the blues while you’re away

Words and Music by David Harley, copyright 1976

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A Smuggler’s Song

I suppose it’s appropriate to go back to this given the part of the country I now live in. 🙂

A setting of the poem by Rudyard Kipling. I have in mind a guitar accompaniment I’m not quite comfortable with yet, but this version is unaccompanied with some harmonies. The words and a few notes are available from this page. I believe Peter Bellamy used to sing a version set to ‘The White Cockade’, which I guess would readily lend itself to a more chorus-y version. In the 70s, I remember hearing a version to a different tune sung in Berkshire that used the second verse as a chorus.

David Harley
Small Blue-Green World

Breathe, My Lute

Words by A.E. Housman, tune and arrangement by David Harley, 2015. All rights reserved.

One of my Housman settings. However, this one isn’t from A Shropshire Lad. Every so often, a tune just pops into my head and demands to be written. Strange how often that’s happened when reading Housman… I don’t own a lute (and haven’t tried to play one in decades), so I used my classic. I do love the lute, though I long ago gave up trying to play anything by Dowland.

Version with harmony vocal (demo for collaborative venture, but I might develop that.)

The  poem was apparently written by a very young Housman (15) for a play, as a song to be sung by Lady Jane Grey while in prison awaiting execution. It somewhat resembles a lyric by Louisa McCartney Crawford (1790–1858) set to music by George Arthur Barker as part of a sequence of Songs of Mary Queen of Scots – The Captivity opens with the line ‘Breathe, breathe my Lute that melting strain My soul delights to hear’. Clearly there are parallels in the context of the two lyrics. There again, filtering thoughts about one’s l poems to or about one’s lute is almost de rigeur for poets: consider ‘My Lute Awake’ and ‘The Lover’s Lute cannot be blamed though it sing of his Lady’s Unkindness’ by Thomas Wyatt, and even ‘Thou Art My Lute’ by Paul Lawrence Dunbar. (However, I am not currently considering an ode to my Strat.)

Returning to Housman, the first verse also reminds me somewhat of Byron’s We’ll go no more a-roving.

Breathe, my lute, beneath my fingers
One regretful breath,
One lament for life that lingers
Round the doors of death.
For the frost has killed the rose,
And our summer dies in snows,
And our morning once for all
Gathers to the evenfall.

Hush, my lute, return to sleeping,
Sing no songs again.
For the reaper stays his reaping
On the darkened plain;
And the day has drained its cup,
And the twilight cometh up;
Song and sorrow all that are
Slumber at the even-star.

David Harley

Same Old Same Old [demo]

Originally called ‘Same Old Blues’ but as there are several songs with a similar title, ‘Same Old Same Old’ seemed more appropriate. Very definitely a demo since I was making up the tune and the chords as I went along, but has promise, I think. About time I found a tune for it, anyway. I started on it today because it looked as if I’d have lots of time to work on it, but then ‘real’ work kicked in with a vengeance. Hope to get back to it soon.

Copyright David Harley, 1987

The burglar bells chimed midnight
The sky was pouring down
My feet froze to the catwalk
But my head was homeward-bound

Same old blues
Same old back-street blues

My head is stuffed with nicotine
My throat is full of sand
My bloodstream is pure gin
I can’t remember how to stand

Same old blues
Same old inner-city blues

The all-night bus is AWOL
I can’t get to my bed
There’s a tangle in my fingers
And a jangle in my head

Same old blues
Same old long-gone midnight blues

One Kind Favour [demo-ish]

Tryout for something by Blind Lemon Jefferson (also known as ‘See that my grave is kept clean’) that I’ve known for decades (probably about five of them…) but never sung in public, that I remember. It started off as an instrumental version but… well, the voices made me do it.

Funny how slide seems to lend itself so well with songs about death.

David Harley

End Game [demo]

Written at a time when I was starting to realize that love doesn’t get any easier as you get older. In fact, it tends to get more complicated. Sketch for an arrangement.

End Game: Words & Music copyright David Harley, 1974
All rights reserved

I’ve been looking out for zero
Since I don’t remember when
Praying not to draw
That same old blank again

But it seems at last time passing
Tears your paper shield apart
And love the silver bullet
Leaves its shrapnel in the heart

Madame
M’sieur
Les jeux sont faits