Some notes on songs on the CD plus a few songs not yet available to buy*.
Little Piece of Tin
Based on a true story. Hear the story behind the song _
Full version available on the CD
The Road Less Travelled
It’s taken me over 40 years to write a love song but the time finally came. So this is for my wife, Angy. I was going to write a song with her name in the title but unfortunately Davey Graham and the Rolling Stones got there first. Many thanks to Mike House for some lovely contributions on the Spanish guitar. Full version here on the CD
Leaving the Sound
One of my previous songs, Prince of the Waltzer, (available on the EP – download from Amazon now, an ideal Xmas present!) was set on Plymouth Hoe so here’s a song about the stretch of water the Hoe looks out on – The Sound. This natural harbour has seen so much history – from the early seafarers who traded tin from Dartmoor to Brittany and beyond, the Elizabethan privateers who sailed out to defeat the Armada and, something I saw as a boy, Francis Chichester returning a hero from his record breaking voyage around the world in Gypsy Moth IV. At the start of their voyages they were all “Leaving the Sound”. To hear the full version get the CD here.
My recent stay in hospital taught me several things. Firstly, and most importantly, if all those staff who have come here from the EU and beyond go home the NHS will cease to function. Secondly, there is a semi-official NHS language. This features the universally useful word “pop” – as in “Just pop your shoes off, pop up onto the couch, pop your trousers down and I’ll pop this thermometer…….” – you get the idea. There are also two phrases that any patient hears continually and they form the basis of this song. This is believed to be the only song in existence to contain the word “orifices” in the chorus.
Mines of the Tamar
All the best songs have a story and this is no exception. There have been mines in the Tamar Valley right back to, it is believed, the early Bronze Age. When mining for copper became a major industry during the 19th Century the miners started by exploring those areas previously worked by those they referred to as “The Old Men”. The area is rich in minerals and the miners soon found workable seams. Working a rich seam was called “cutting yellow” (from the colour of the ore-bearing rock) and a wide seam was described as being “from corner to corner”. All along the steep banks of the Tamar the mines proliferated and were often named after the wives and children of the mine-owners – such as Emma, Josiah and Anna-Maria. Around 6000 people, including women and children, owed their livelihood to the mines and the ore was taken to the surface and mainly transported to the riverside port of Morwhellham to be transported in barges downriver for export. It was a busy port – by the mid 1800s there were over 100 mines in the valley.
While the miners were poorly paid for backbreaking dangerous work the mine owners – chiefly Lord Bedford, who owned much of the valley, and Josiah Hitchens, the owner of Wheal (Cornish for “mine”) Josiah and Wheal Fanny – made huge fortunes. Hitchens literally struck lucky when a seam of copper 12 metres wide and almost 3 kilometres long was discovered at his mine Wheal Maria (named after Hitchens’ wife). Lord Bedford owned the West Devon Consols mine which was, at one time, the largest producer of copper in the world.
Eventually the copper started to run out but there was still arsenic to be extracted. This was used for many things but a lot went to make the green dye used in the “Arts and Crafts” wallpapers that were becoming fashionable among the well to do. The main arsenic mine was owned by the father of William Morris – one of the founders of the Arts and Crafts movement. So the arsenic and the income from his late father’s mine made his designs and career possible. And there was a LOT of arsenic being produced. At one point it was calculated that there was enough arsenic awaiting loading at Morwhellam Quay to poison every man, woman and child in the known world. The wallpaper was attractive – working to extract it less so. The life span of those working to extract and process the arsenic (it was processed on site at the surface) was short.
Eventually the mines closed down and many of the miners emigrated to where their skills were in demand – Australia, Canada, America. Even today there are countries in South America that count the pasty among their culinary armoury – something brought by the Cornish miners, or”Cousin Jacks” as they were known, when they arrived to work the mines.
That’s the story – here’s the song. Many thanks to Morwenna Millership, who provided her inimitable skills on fiddle, penny whistle and backing vocals (is there no end to this woman’s talents?), Graham Mansbridge who provided the low notes on bass guitar and backing vocals and the Edgson Family (Neil, Linda and Amelia). Neil for his amazing skill at knob twiddling and other things none of us understand, Linda for her invaluable tea-making skills and Amelia for her addition to the “choir”. This song is on the new CD.
Mines Of The Tamar is featured on Episode 123 of the amazing Fokcast podcast. Just over an hour of acoustic loveliness. Listen or download it here.
MINES OF THE TAMAR (copyright Andy Harding 2016)
The estimable Greg Hancock asked me for a contribution to a charity CD he was compiling to aid refugees trapped in camps in Syria. I wanted a strong drumbeat to give a sense of people being driven relentlessly from country to country so I started from there. Originally the song was planned as something very different – an acoustic treatment over a strummed guitar – but, as so often happens, the song kind of took on a life of its own and this is the result. Not the finished article (for those of you into the technicalities the vocal needs some compression, EQ etc.) but almost there. Let me know what you think.
*The CD for Syria is now available as a download here
Alternatively, buy my latest CD here
Here is a taster :-
For my mother, who died at the end of 2015. Her final year was lived almost completely in her own world. I hope it was kind to her.This is an early take – apologies for the dubious guitar part in the middle.
First Mix – Tuesday Night Troubadour
Now the title song on my latest CD – available here
Written on Tuesday 9th June 2016 and recorded on Thursday 11th with a talented group of musicians – Laurie Light (Mandolin), Graham Mansbridge (Upright Bass) and Morwenna Millership (Violin) at the studio of Neil Edgson who produced it (tea and coffee provided by the estimable Linda). This is the first mix – the final version is on the CD. A song for all those who’ve played an Open Mic night in front of an audience who’d rather be playing pool! Featured in the October 2015 edition of Folkcast. Hear the whole show here.
The Book of Mister Happy
This has long been a favourite with audiences. Those of a fundamentalist religious mind might like to give this one a miss. This is a video for the song. A more polished version is available on the CD – available here.
Widgery Tor (Song for Captain Hunter)
A bit of live action here. An iPhone isn’t the greatest device for capturing hi-fidelity sound but the song is another popular one. The story behind it is interesting too. If you’re ever walking near Bratts Tor (sometimes called Widgery Tor) near Lydford on Dartmoor look for the plaque by the side of the river with Captain Hunter’s poem on it. Another “story” song. Captain Hunter was a local boy from Lydford who went off to WW1 as so many did and, like many others, he became a poet. Decorated and dead at 24 the first verse of this song is the first verse of one of his poems – the rest is mine. I’ve heard from his great-nephew who (thank God!) loves the song.