West Highland Blues
Updated: Nov 14, 2022
Terry wrote this piece about his West Highland Blues album, which is now out on Bandcamp, while he was working on it.....Many thanks to Terry's good friend Rob at Rush Music for helping me with mastering and other know-how.
New directions in writing; through the hall of mirrors that is the alphabet,
and up and down the helter skelter that is show business.
In 2002 I moved from Berkshire to the west coast of Scotland where I lived until the spring of 2005 before moving to Wales, where I live with my wife Kate, along near the Gower coast:
"The wind's from the north
and the temperature's falling
the wind on the
sounds like a banshee calling
and I dream of
the hour of the girl" - Terry Clarke
I lived there for just a short time, but Scotland had an impact upon my writing; exploring; regions; history; landscapes and the work of Robert Burns.
Many of the songs in West Highland Blues combine character studies alongside landscape colours.
"Got a paint box in my pocket. Got it from Jolomo"....Terry Clarke
The album has my re-workings of the traditional songs 'Stagger Lee' and 'Delia's Gone' alongside my settings of two Robert Burns pieces; 'Highland Mary' and 'The Slave's Lament'. 'Delia's Gone' uses some of the original melody and lyric but the action takes place in
Greenock, Arran and Kintyre, while 'Stagger Lee' is set on Clydeside and in Glasgow to a new melodic setting.
Burns used extant melodies for them himself - I would not have taken it upon myself to replace music that he had composed. I originally wrote these pieces for theatre productions with The Dalriada Fencibles, a loose traveling players group in Argyll that I work with when I can - since 2003 we have staged four different productions. The group is led by Govan/Glasgow writer/poet Jeanette Valentine. I wrote another of my original songs from the album 'Robert Campbell's Lament for Jeannie Burns' for a production we performed at the Tam O' Shanter Centre in Alloway which was Burns birthplace. Called 'Jean Armour' it focused upon the life of his widow.
My song 'Coffin Road' (for Johnny Cash at Inverchaolain Church, Loch Striven) was written as a rumination on the highland coffin routes and as an homage to Cash, and 'Elvis Presley came to Prestwick' is a storytelling ballad based on Elvis setting foot on Scottish soil in 1960. Have I ever written an album of songs that doesn't find space for Presley and Cash? I don't think that could ever happen.
While living in Argyll I also wrote several character study songs based on the stories I collected relating to the times the American Polaris submarine base was on Holy Loch. Some of those songs 'He Went Back to Brooklyn' and 'The Marlborough Hotel' are on West Highland Blues, too.
The engineer for this album is Tony Woods, and the tracks include Tony's percussion/drum grooves and my own acoustic 12 string guitar and vocals/harmonies, I'm also playing some electric guitar again, for the first time since my days with Domino Effect in the 1980's. These days I'm using Danelectro 12 string guitars.
"Stagger Lee said “speak when spoken to” nobody called him ‘Sonny Jim’ That hat that gave shade to his eyes? had razors in the brim He’ll slice your cheek like a melon from the watermelon patch Take a bow and spin that hat and dare the boys to catch Stagger Lee, Stagger Lee, bad man Stagger Lee" - Terry Clarke