Category Archives: Music without Words

Staffordshire Hornpipe [demo]

I find myself in an unusual position. (Steady! Not that sort of position.) I’ve played guitar and/or bass with ceilidh bands from time to time since the 1970s, but have never rehearsed with one until recently.

Which got me thinking that one or two tunes might fit quite nicely into a recording project I’m hatching. This is a sketch only for one possibility. It includes far too many guitars (probably one part would be a bass with just one second guitar to put in some sparse countermelodies) and the actual tune gets buried at some points: it’s just that this has some bits I wanted to keep for reference. I believe the tune was originally recorded in 1909 by Cecil Sharp from John Locke in Leominster. This interpretation is based on a vaguely-remembered recording from the 60s by Jon and Mike Raven. I think this was the record (with Jean Ward): SONGS OF THE BLACK COUNTRY AND THE WEST MIDLANDS.

I’m tempted to buy it, but then I’d have to learn the tune properly. 😉



David Harley
Small Blue-Green World


40-70 blues [demo]

If you listen to the bass, this is essentially a 12-bar with aspirations, not to mention pretensions. While at the moment I’m concentrating on getting more-or-less one-take versions of my songs onto the site, I think there might be more unexpected synth incursions in the near future. And I think I might come back to this one.

Backup copy:

David Harley
Wheal Alice Music

She Moved Through the Souk

This instrumental gets its name because it kind of evolved from Davy Graham’s jazz-raga arrangement of ‘She Moved Through the Fair’ (memorably described by Martin Carthy as ‘a mess’). I’ve used the same arrangement (without the jazziness) as a starting point for accompanying singers since the end of the 1960s, when I used to do ‘She moved through the fair’ with my friend Sally Goddard, who now lives in Newfoundland and sings with the band Atlantic Union. London friends may remember the electric version I used to do with Kathy Bowen Jones.

However, this is a highly personalized, extemporized instrumental version that always seems to come out more North African than Indian.  Anyway, I don’t think we’re in Ireland any more with this version, Toto.

I don’t suppose Martin would like this version much, either. Nevertheless, I’ll probably come back to record a more polished version in due course. Perhaps with a sitar overdub. 🙂

David Harley
Small Blue-Green World


Crawdad is a first-take improvisation based (if I remember correctly!) on the first theme from Jimmy Guiffre’s ‘Crawdad Suite’, with a second guitar overdubbed (also the first take). There are some decidedly rough spots – rather like Bert Jansch and John Renbourn on an off-day – but I kind of like it as a preliminary sketch for something I may come back to in a while.

Actually, the Jansch/Renbourn reference is pretty apposite. Not only because I used some very Renbourn phrasing here and there on the overdub, but because Bert’s ‘Smokey River’ on his first album is similarly based on Guiffre’s ‘The Train and the River’. Not that I knew Bert well – I only met him once to talk to, in the 1980s – but we evidently shared a liking for Jim Hall’s guitar-playing as showcased on a couple of recordings with Guiffre’s groups.

‘Crawdad Suite’ was featured on a late 1950s Atlantic album called Jimmy Guiffre 3, with Guiffre (clarinet, baritone and tenor sax), Jim Hall (guitar)and Ralph Pena (bass).

David Harley
Small Blue-Green World
ESET Senior Research Fellow