Sometimes a song just gets under your skin. I could never quite get the acoustic to fit it and then I gradually just got used to the sound. Now I Like singing it but I don’t know when that happened. Anyway, my apologies to people who actually love the original.

The Battle of Waterloo

Listen or download : The Battle of Waterloo

Napoleon_in_His_StudyThis song was a favourite of mine for a long time. It is by the wonderful Jim Malcolm and I first heard it at a time when I was reading about Napoleon (Napoleon by Frank McLynn), and so it fascinated me. Anyway, I was footering around in 2000 with my home recording setup using Logic Audio as my recorder and recorded this purely for fun. To cut a long story short, I no longer use Logic Audio, but switched to Cubase after Apple bought Logic and dumped all us PC users! So I was clearing out some old hard drives and found the original files for this a few weeks ago, and decided to build the files into a song again in Cubase. I believe some midi stuff is missing, as it was tied into Logic’s files, but I added in my bouzouki to replace what was from memory, midi piano. It’s not particularly special, but it is fun dusting off a song from 12 years ago!

Anyway, it is what it is. Do listen to Jim Malcolm doing it to hear how it should be sung.

Farewell tae Whisky

One of my favourite traditional songs. Learned from The Boys of the Lough’s first album when Dick Gaughan was singing with them. The album was re-released on CD only a few years ago and is one of my favourite folk recordings. It’s called “the boys of the lough”. All very eponymous!

The Helmsdale Plot

When I was in my late teens (I’m 45 now!) I used to play in a folk duo, sometimes trio, with my girlfriend Christine. We were doing a support spot in Helmsdale one night for the amazing and evergreen duo, Gaberlunzie. After the gig was over a lot of drinking and chatting with the locals happened, and in fact the locals took over the bar completely and ensured a free flow of warming libation for all into the wee hours. Anyway, the talk turned to the burning down of Prince Charles’s chalet locally which I vaguely recalled had happened, and the responsibility for the act was laid at the feet of one of my fellow carousers. (I’m sure it was an untrue accusation). Over time it got me thinking about the local statue of the Duke of Sutherland which is roundly disliked by the locals. The Duke apparently had it erected to himself as the “great improver”, but he is known as one of the perpetrators of the Highland Clearances. In short I wondered how the potentially fire-raising element among the locals had never succumbed to the temptation to destroy the massive hilltop statue. The song emerged some time soon after to satisfy this potentially pleasing fantasy and hopefully captures some of the fear that the plotters would feel. (For the record, don’t destroy statues, someone could get hurt, seriously).

Picture by Dr Richard Murray under CC license. Thank you.

The Helmsdale Plot (Matthew Boyle)

It’s Tuesday night and we are standing in the cold, we wait in Glasgow for the last train going north.
We’re bound for Inverness, it’s there we’ll meet some friends, who’ll drive us up by Bonar Bridge to Carbisdale.
For when we meet tonight we know that we must all work fast, there is danger all around, our freedom might not last.
For if the Duke survives to see another day, our statement won’t be made, our chance may never come another day.

It’s 11.40 now, we wait below the bridge, the night seems colder now, we’re shaking to our boots.
We’ll pass as hikers with our packs of dynamite, we’ll plant the charges then we’ll vanish in the night.
Then three of us will make our way by different routes down south, the rest of them go back through dawn to their homes Kildonan way,
They will get the satisfaction given by the blast, knowing its their handiwork, knowing that the Duke has gone at last.

And you said, last Friday night, that you wanted counted in.
And you said, when we last met, that we’d meet in Lairg at midnight.
And you said, that with your help, that we’d consign him in the night-time.
And you said, that with his passing, with his going, he’d set the northern sky alight.

Come by Glasgow, Come by Fife or Aberdeen, Come and see the greatest sight the north has ever seen.
Come and see this pilgrimage we’ve made of broken stone, come and see what’s left now of this man who never cared.
For when we meet tonight we know that we must all work fast, there is danger all around, our freedom might not last.
For if the Duke survives to see another day, our statement won’t be made, our chance may never come another day.

Bill Hosie

This song is by Archie Fisher and I have always been fascinated by it. It is so unusual to have a folksong-style piece about something as geeky as a guy who restored a racing seaplane and met his end living the dream. You know when a song mentions the engine that “nerdvana” has been achieved. Archie Fisher does this in a modal tuning, this is my more pedestrian version in standard tuning.