Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872 –1906), the son of parents who were slaves in Kentucky before the Civil War, was better known in his lifetime for writing dialect poetry and prose, but in recent years his more traditional writing has attracted more attention and respect. Maya Angelou borrowed a line from ‘Sympathy’ for the title of her autobiography ‘I know why the caged bird sings’.
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core,
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings –
I know why the caged bird sings!
For my setting of ‘Thou Art My Lute’ I’ve used a consciously archaic arrangement to suit the tone of the poem.
Thou art my lute, by thee I sing,—
My being is attuned to thee.
Thou settest all my words a-wing,
And meltest me to melody.
Thou art my life, by thee I live,
From thee proceed the joys I know;
Sweetheart, thy hand has power to give
The meed of love—the cup of woe.
Thou art my love, by thee I lead
My soul the paths of light along,
From vale to vale, from mead to mead,
And home it in the hills of song.
My song, my soul, my life, my all,
Why need I pray or make my plea,
Since my petition cannot fall;
For I’m already one with thee!
A song written in the 1980s about the conflict Jorge Luis Borges described as “a fight between two bald men over a comb.”
Words and music (c) David Harley
The lads are on the march again: adrenaline is surging
Through the arteries of power
The gutter press is snarling, waving flags and beating chests
From the safety of its concrete Dockland towers
The price of bread is escalating and the jobs are getting scarce
But the circuses get bigger every year
If we lose the World Cup, God will give us back the Falklands
Before the latest Royal new-born appears
In the Corridors of Power, the game is Battleships:
Sink a few and lose a few – that’s Diplomacy
The body count gets higher, the planes and ships get fewer
The bereaved on both sides might agree
That the game’s not worth the candle standing by a single coffin
But there’s so much more at stake than death or life
There’s property and money and oil and mineral rights
And loss of face and patriotic pride.
The bombs and missiles blossom, and the gunfire pounds and pounds
The ears of friend and foe
The Belgrano and the Santa Fe, the Sheffield and Sir Tristram Death by death the roll of honour grows
Till the fighting fizzles out in bitter winter gales
Far too late for so many mothers’ sons
The guns have fallen silent, but the words are bayonet-sharp
And the propaganda war goes on
The hawks are praising God across the tombstones of the dead
A service is attended by the Queen
The Prime Minister spits blood because a timid man of God
Recalls the dead on both sides in ‘victory’
Peace in the South Atlantic; a bombing in Hyde Park
Bloody warfare in the Lebanon
We press on to self-destruction: even as this one war ends
The killing still goes on and on and on
This site hasn’t really kept up with the ridiculous number of my album and single releases in the last year or two. No, I don’t expect them to keep me in my old age. If someone occasionally buys an album or even a track, that’s nice, but it’s really more about getting as many of the songs as possible out there in some reasonably structured, (hopefully) semi-permanent form. Just in case someone, sometime likes them enough to dig out the obscurities.
So here is a list of the Harley albums and singles currently available including content summaries These releases replace cassette and CD albums previously available (which is how they come to be released in such a short timeframe), and are at present digital-only releases. Right now, some of them are still only available from Bandcamp, but I’m working on that. Some may be the basis in due course for multi-media projects: for instance, I’m currently working on a music and verse project that will draw on some of the instrumental tracks from Back In Free Fall and Still In Free Fall, and an expanded multi-media version of Tears of Morning. The list below is just a barebones list of releases. (The links here are to the Bandcamp albums – the Available Albums link includes further links to other sources such as Apple Music.
Strictly Off The Record‘ and ‘Further Off The Record‘ are slightly different ‘greatest hits’ collections. Admittedly I don’t actually have any hits, but these are the tracks/songs that have been listened to most, or have had radio play, or get asked for during live performances, or that other performers have expressed an interest in learning. They’re a good place to start (and finish, in most cases…) as they include 20 or so songs that are a pretty good cross-section of my better recordings.
Tears of Morning is a collection of songs with a Shropshire connection, including settings of verse by A.E. Housman and ‘W.H.B.’
The single One Step Away (From The Blues) is one of a handful of tracks recorded for an album by Bob Theil, Don MacLeod, Pat Orchard, Bob Cairns and myself in the 80s. Unfortunately, the album was never released.
The EP ‘View From The Top‘ features Don MacLeod, and consists of songs we perform (occasionally!) as a duo, written by us individually or together.
The EP ‘Hands of the Craftsman‘ consists of songs and verse from the 1980 review ‘Nice…If You Can Get It’, directed by Margaret Ford, for which I wrote most of the original music.
‘The Game Of London‘ consists of stories in song of the city in which I spent some 25 years of my life.
Ten Percent Blues‘ has tracks that mostly have a touch of blues, including a look back or two at my very short career on the road.
The single: ‘How To Say Goodbye‘ is the song with which I considered embarrassing my daughter at her wedding. 🙂
‘Dinosaur Tracks‘ are mostly of demo quality, quite a lot leaning towards blues.
‘Cold Iron‘ puts together most of my songs of social commentary.
‘Kitsch And Canoodle‘ – songs of love, lust and obsession. Probably describes most of my current repertoire.
Upcountry‘ – songs with a loosely rural theme, some in a country/blues/folk idiom, plus some settings of verse by Kipling, Housman and Yeats.
Born To Be Mild: 1st Demo Album – first of a set of albums where the tracks are not really commercial-quality recordings, but I’m putting them out because I think the songs are better than the performances. If and when my health improves, I’ll certainly revisit some of them. The first batch is mostly my settings to verse by Housman, Kipling and Hood.