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So Far From My Home (Live at Very Fine Solutions, 2019)

Daniel McBrearty

Record Details

Released:
2019
Genre:
singer songwriter

“So Far From My Home” is a live recording of eight songs on the theme of the life of a wanderer. I wrote them over a period of more than 20 years.  There is a theme running through them of someone seeking a sense of belonging. This was not intentional, but having put the tunes together, I see that this is something that has been part of my own inner life.

The audiophile recording was made at an intimate house concert at Very Fine Solutions, Antwerp in February, 2019, before an enthusiastic audience.  I was beautifully supported by cornet player Jon Birdsong (Black Flower, Beck …), also a settler in Antwerp. (Jon is originally from Texas.)

While some of the songs were written years ago, they feel relevant today. I am very happy with this recording.

The best way to listen to (and buy) this right now is from my Bandcamp page – or in the player right below:

The Songs

1. So Far From My Home

“In the age of the atomic clock
I hear the slave atom whisper and rock
Her heart beats deep in the rock
In readiness
Far above me the satellite
Hits the world through the word box of light
Far away from the sweet morning light
In this wilderness

“But I wish that I did not feel
So Far From My Home

“Gonna reach down deep in the rock
Find my way through the rupture and shock
He heart beats deep in the rock
In tenderness
I’m gonna cry out like a prisoner in the dock
I’m gonna break the chain and the lock
Gonna end this deep mental block
In readiness

“But I wish that I did not feel
So Far From My Home

“I’m gonna hold my head to the heights
I’m gonna be like a beacon of light
I’m gonna make my talent shine bright
In this wilderness

“But I wish that I did not feel
So Far From My Home”

This was written after walking on the beach at home in Wales, late one night in summer. I think I realised then that a feeling of belonging was something that could only be found inside myself.

2. Uncle Belly’s Leaning Shed

(Verse)
“There’s a place that I know
Where only the poor people go.
Every night from the door
You’ll hear the sound of laughter
Until the morning comes

“It’s not fashionable, It’s not chic
And when it rains the roof sometimes leaks
The only light comes from the lamplight
Hanging from the rafter

“Until the morning comes
the drifters and the bums
Let down their hair and put the world to right
Almost every night …

(Chorus)

“It don’t matter if you got no money
It’s not the kind of place that you need bread
Come on get yourself a taste of honey
Down at Uncle Belly’s Leaning Shed

“It’s four in the morning and the city slumbers
The office workers safely home in bed
Come on get yourself a game of numbers
Down at Uncle Belly’s Leaning Shed

“If love’s your thing bring your madam, bring your mister
If you’re a wino bring a bottle instead
Prepare to share them with your brother and your sister
Down at Uncle Belly’s Leaning Shed”

The title came from a random phrase that my brother Marcus came out with. It’s pretty old because I recall doing a version of it with friends back in college days. Anyway, it’s a kind of tongue-in-cheek story of a bar where everyone is welcome and everyone has fun and is nice to each other.

A few years ago in Antwerp we had a wonderful place with a lot of live music that was like this (OK, the roof didn’t leak). It was called Cafe Kiebooms and was quite the place, until it closed down because of one neighbour who complained about the noise. A tragedy for those of us for whom it felt like home. Anyway, this is dedicated to that place and everyone who helped make it so magical. (You don’t miss what you got til it’s gone.)

3. Hard Edged Little Kissing

“By this time tomorrow I’ll be in a box within your mind
And though the thought may worry you, you’ll never let it blind you
Your life is as you’d have it, your heart keeps you away
From the funny kind of loving You found with me today, so…

“Come on and give me some of your
Hard Edged Little Kissing
Make me want what I can’t have
You know that’s what I’m missing
Worry ‘bout the future or what tomorrow brings
You make it like a daydream
Your kisses, they have wings

“Some day in the future the computers will have me down
As a bad man, unreliable who left his house in town
When I waste my time, or tend my still
Or I’m shaving on the train
You’ll stop to think of this
Hard Edged Kiss
You’ll never feel again, so …

“Come on and give me some of your
Hard Edged Little Kissing …”

This a folk-rock ballad about an ill-fated love story. The lovers know that circumstances won’t allow them to be together; one has a secure life, the other must drift on, searching for a resting place. But there is a bitter-sweet memory that will always remain.

4. Guitar Instrumental

I wrote this piece when I lived in Muswell Hill, London, about 1998. At the time I was playing a lot of Bach solo flute and cello stuff on saxophone, and also exploring fingerstyle guitar quite a bit. The form (for the musically curious, it is AABB, with the B section somewhat longer than A and a modulation to the fifth at the end of A) was quite deliberately copied from Bach’s pieces. But stylistically and harmonically it borrows both from Celtic fingerstyle and jazz. (For instance there are some 7#9 chords that Bach would not have used, and some parts let open strings ring a lot, which is something I borrowed from Celtic style players.)

5. Where The Dirty River Flows

(Verse 1)
“Take your psychic airplane
High above the city
Look down on the black veins
With their clots of steel
Look down on the money man
Thinks that he gets there faster
Poor Mr Commuter Man
Stuck behind a wheel

(Chorus)
“Is there a sweeter feeling hidden in the heart of it
Suppressed in case the water level rose
Is there a deeper healing charity no part of it
Somewhere Where The Dirty Flows

(Verse 2)
“Take your psychic airplane
Take it high up above this country
Look down on the rivers
Flowing through the bitter fields
Look down on the farming man
Ploughing endless furrows
Poor old agricultural
Worrying over yields

(Chorus)

(Verse 3)
Take you psychic airplane
Take it high up above this planet
Look down on the rivers
Flowing into seas
And look down on the short love
That we give to the poor and the needy
Given out like wire
To the down at heel

(The dirty river haunts me in my dreams
The dirty river, everywhere it seems)

I wrote this living in South East London, walking home a bit drunk. I was thinking about the fact that there are all these submerged rivers in that part of London, that you don’t see from ground level (or so I read). The song takes you on an imaginary flight, over city and country, and eventually the planet, looking down and questioning the works of humankind.

 6. Be Natural

“Back in the eighties I got my fingers burned
Here in the nineties, I’m just touching what I’ve earned
Be Natural, that’s the lesson that I’ve learned

“I’ve had good love, to make me want to shout
And I’ve been lonely, know what jilted’s all about
Be Natural, in the end the truth will out

“Save the time that faking takes up
Without appearances to keep
Nice façades will surely break up
In the mirror, before you go to sleep

“They got an old saying ‘bout diamonds and girls
But nobody’s paying for counterfeited pearls
Be Natural, while this sad old world unfurls
Be Natural, while this sad old world unfurls”

Well, back in the late 1980’s I did indeed get burned, after unwisely jumping into the property market during “Thatcher’s Economic Experiment”. But that’s an old story, and hey I got a song out of it.

I wrote this as a 1940’s style blues-ballad thing, with a slightly moralistic message to stay true to yourself.  Because, as Groucho Marx said : “Sincerity is the key to success – once you can fake that, you’ve got it made”.

This song first appeared on the Blue Heathens album a few years back, but this is my more bare-bones version of it.

7. Wouldn’t That Be A Thing

“I get numb watching the news right now
Rich old white guys do their thing
They don’t speak for us anyhow
Wouldn’t That Be A Thing

“I don’t don’t hold with all the things they say
The madness of a king
Hoping change is on they way
Wouldn’t That Be A Thing

“And I’m wondering about you right now
Tied up in your own string
I don’t get through to you anyhow
Wouldn’t That Be A Thing

“It’s yesterday’s connection now
A sell by date on the tin
Got no use for it anyhow
Wouldn’t That Be A Thing

“I get tired of waiting for you right now
Poisoned by your own sting
Got my own wounds to clean anyhow
Wouldn’t That Be A Thing

“The kids are smarter than the grown-ups now
Showed the whole damn world something
Hoping change will come someday now
Wouldn’t That Be A Thing”

The most recent song on the album, written in 2018. This came out of my disgust at the failure of politicians to do anything useful at all about the climate crisis, and the fact that it falls to schoolkids to make any kind of point about it.

8. Give Thanks For Simple Things

“A cycle ride through the park that takes you homeward after dark
And passes by the benches where a drunken couple sings
You stop to pass the time away, you laugh you drink you talk you play
Enjoy these small adventures and give thanks for simple things.

“You’re standing in your favourite club when all amongst the great hubbub
Of people that are passing, your telephone it rings
Someone you met a while ago but lost their number- ther you go
You’re gonna get connected. Give thanks for simple things.

“Give Thanks For Simple Things …

“The poets and the sages talked philosophy through the ages
Writing many learned pages on the benefits it brings
Their words may be uplifting, but when your mind is drifting
You may find a certain gift in giving thanks for simple things.

“There is a certain need inside to please the senses and the tide
Of dances and romances is a sweet and bitter thing.
Lovers they may come and go, the beauty’s in the ebb and flow
You’ve got to take your chances. Give thanks for simple things.

“Give Thanks For Simple Things …

“Some people think their karma is to act like Dalai Lama.
A kind of spiritual farmer having endless soulful flings.
It may appear outdated, but it’s far less complicated
If the appetite is sated giving thanks for simple things

“We may find ourselves connected, feeling specially selected
The choices we’ve elected making sweet our everything
Feeling free instead of frightened, how our spirits may be brightened
Joyful and enlightened, giving thanks for simple things.

“Give Thanks For Simple Things …”

Well, this obviously just a song about gratitude, the powerful effect it has if you cultivate it as an emotion. Once I had the first few lines of this the song seemed to run away with itself, which is always a good sign I think. But it took a long time to find a way of putting it to music. I used a kind of minor blues idea to give it a hip feel, and Jon completes the picture. In fact this was the first time I performed it live, so I was pretty thankful to get all those words out without messing it up!

  1. Where The Dirty River Flows (live)
  2. Poor Butterfly (from Clarinet Swing) Daniel McBrearty / Dirk Van Den Linden / Jean Van Lint 1:26
  3. Uncle Belly's Leaning Shed (live)
  4. Let's Fall Out Of Love (with Blue Heathens Jazz Band) The Blue Heathens Jazz Band 1:20
  5. A Swing For Paolo (from Clarinet Swing) Daniel McBrearty / Dirk Van Den Linden / Jean Van Lint 1:02
  6. The Twice Nothing Rag (with Blue Heathens Jazz Band) The Blue Heathens Jazz Band 1:08
  7. Streams (with Udhav Shinde Trio) Udhav Shinde Trio 0:37