David A Harley’s Tears Of Morning is a wonderful WABAC Machine that, in true Rocky and Bullwinkle Mr. Peabody (and Sherman!) fame, travels back in time to a welcome venue when acoustic guitar singing musicians plied the world with passion, melodies, introspective grace, and (thank you, John Martyn) acoustic danger. This one throws a spinning shot into 70’s pub folk dart board.
The first song, ‘Song Of Chivalry’, begins with the lovey acoustic guitar bit ‘The Holy Well’ and then morphs into the song proper with DH’s voice embracing the medieval themed words with a nod toward (the great!) Dave Cousins’ best haunted Wicker Man passionate singing in ‘The Hangman And The Papist’ or the deep tremulous sincerity of ‘Josephine For Better Or For Worse’. And the tune itself echoes the soft patience of an early Magna Carta song like Season’s ‘Elizabethan’. Indeed, “My lady is so fair”, “And did those feet in ancient times”, and as The Beatles sang, “yeah yeah yeah”: These are nice rippled and very British waves.
My friend, Kilda Defnut, said of the album, “This is music for rivers that magically flow backwards”. And then she added, “Thankfully, Brian Eno hasn’t thought of that one yet!”
There’s more dramatic (and very acoustic) “grace and danger”. ‘Castles And Kings’ echoes the melodic gift of an Amazing Blondel tune—again with that “witchwood” voice. And there are respectful glances at Bert Jansch and John Renbourn. That’s a lot of big names. But as the Greek guy Heraclitus once said, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man”. Truly, David Harley sings with his own take on Bob Dylan’s suggestion “to sit down on this bank of sand/And watch the river flow”. So, yeah, Tears Of The Morning manages its own voice. ‘Breathe, My Lute’ (one of several with lyrics provided by A.E. Housman!) has the gentle beauty of Anthony Phillips in his most Romantic mood, and according to DAH’s notes, was sung by none other than Lady Jane Grey the night before her execution! That’s a nice bit of history that puts any morning’s tragic burnt toast into its the proper perspective! And this all scarcely skips a burnt toast breath and quietly drips into ‘The Carpenter’s Son’, again with a Housman lyric. This is a simple guitar, voice, and tranquilly danced time. Ditto for ‘When I Was’, which conjures a big keyboard drama and then descends into melodic self-confession. Then, ‘On Bredon Hill’ just continues the slightly acid folk sound of that (before-mentioned) spinning shot into that 70’s pub folk dartboard.
The haunted Wicker Man vibe continues. ‘Moonflow III’ is an instrumental laced with introspection. ‘Thomas Anderson’ is yet another English folk (with historical citation) song that gets into all that Jacobite rebellion stuff–which was greener grass gravity to an Anglophile living in Midwestern Wisconsin who vowed to buy every Fairport Convention record (little did I know!), loved Ossian, and had even scored an imported copy of the first Five Hand Reel album (on the venerable Rubber Records label!). That confession stated, ‘Tears Of Morning/Sea Fret’ (Thank you, A.E. Housman again!) kindles the intimate moment between singer and the universe that the Strawbs’ front man Dave Cousins can still conjure to give “a glimpse of heaven”. The tune trembles in its own melodic wind, and is somehow written in the key of sad autumnal thoughts. And, as my friend, Kilda Defnut, also said, “This is music to watch votive candles flicker against sacred church stones with melodic prayers”. Big compliments all around.
Seriously, Tears Of Morning could be mistaken for one of those (quickly purchased!) Sunbeam or Guerssen reissued records of obscure artists like Wizz Jones, Gallery, Lazy Farmer, Mark Fry, Pererin, Sourdeline, and Roger Rodier. Again, these are all really nice ripples in an ever-ancient folk music pond—with or without the ghost of any Excalibur sword buried in an “unquiet grave”.
Four more tunes complete the crop circle. ‘Ballad Of The Arbor Tree’ is clever, quick (with ancient words by the mysterious W.H.B.), gets all historical, and has a melody worthy of (Teesside’s favorite son and brilliant folk singing guy!) Vin Garbutt. ‘Severn Shore’ has a deep acoustic texture with more of Housman’s words and that Dave Cousins devotional honesty.
By the way, “Where is the dream of your youth?” This album questions with that very same Jeopardy answer.
In its own way, Tears Of Morning, being somewhat a labour of aged love, finds its nascent dream in the final instrumental ‘Carpentry’—which preludes the wisdom of ‘Wrekin (The Marches Line)’—a song with pulsing beauty found in that ever-ancient folk music pond that ripples with transient waves, yet still, even after all these years, sings with old passion, anon scripted melodies, introspective grace, and (thank you, John Martyn, once again!) quiet acoustic danger.
Artist’s website: https://whealalice.com/
‘Wrekin (The Marches Line)’ – official video: