Folk Ballads


The Ballad of Deep Lock
I doubt if I will ever do anything better than this. I put my heart and soul into it.

The idea for a narrative song based on a repeating 5-bar sequence first came to me in the early 1990s, initially as an autobiography. I only ever wrote the first line ("It started in the Spring") and then abandoned it, but the musical idea stayed in my head. In 2015 a suggestion was made at artSBridge (the arts support group in Sowerby Bridge) to organise an artistic event to celebrate the fact that the town has the deepest canal lock in the country, and I wrote this song using the musical ideas I'd had 20 years earlier. In the end the event never took place but I felt the song was good enough to stand on its own.

Later in 2015, while making a film about Branwell Brontë and his time in the Calder Valley, it occurred to me that the music would make an ideal basis for a song to accompany the closing credits of the film, so I wrote new words and the result was Legacy. I still felt, however, that the Ballad of Deep Lock should eventually see the light of day in its own right, so here it is as originally conceived.

I would describe it as an electronic folk ballad with a prog rock style interlude in the middle. Because I hate under-complicating things, this interlude is in 11/4 time.

Click on the image below to hear the music accompanied by a slideshow of 145 photos of the Calder Valley. Click on the player below it for the music only.


Standing in the rain
At the corner of a parking lot,
Where the tarmac ends and the pigeons plot,
At the foot of Tuel Lane.

People scurry by,
Wrapped in stark oblivion
To the deepest lock in Albion
In the corner of their eye.

It's an ingenious solution:
A structure helping water climb,
From the finest minds of that distant time
Of industrial revolution.

We marvel at its scale,
Taking water from the Pennine hills
That distills and spills through a maze of mills
On its way to Calderdale.

Gongoozlers wear their grin;
They're waiting for the signal sound
Of the diesel throb and the sluice unwound,
As the water tumbles in.

Then from the bowels of hell,
Through the gated jaws of this behemoth
And mesmeric swirl of the foam and froth
An intruder breaks the spell.

We hear the excited cries
Of families or friends afloat
In a gaudy painted narrowboat,
As it slowly starts to rise.

There's a rebellion ripe for foment,
As anxious shouts from aft to bow
Make everyone a captain now,
All caught up in the moment.

The tourists have all gone;
Reflections in the upper pound
Show the passing clouds and the sky unbound,
As the evening watches on.

People scurry by,
Wrapped up in their comfort zone
Without a glance at the world unknown,
As the lock stands idly by.

And as bird gives way to midge
At the closing scene of an epic play
The curtain falls on another day
In the town of Sowerby Bridge.

© Alan Wrigley Jan 2018  


Find Our Way Home
This song is more personal and introspective than most I've written in the last few years.

I was born and raised in the south but my father came from the north. For my first 30 years I remained in and around London, but since then I have lived in many different places including long spells in the north. So by the time I arrived in Sowerby Bridge in 2013 I felt no particular allegiance to any region. At the time I assumed I would move on again in a few years as I have always done in the past (25 moves since I left university). However, the question of whether I really belonged in the north or the south still occupied my mind.

Not long afterwards I was walking along the hillside of the Calder Valley on a cold day, thinking not only about whether I really belonged here but also about the whole nature and purpose of my life. Ever since my parents died a few years earlier I had felt that after guiding them through their final years so that they could stay in their own home, I had repaid my debt for their care when I was young and had probably fulfilled my purpose in life. It was now just a question of waiting patiently to fade away into oblivion.

In the distance I saw a green signal on the railway line in the valley, and the seeds of this song started germinating from the thoughts swirling around in my head.

As a postscript I'm happy to say that it was only a couple of months before I found a new purpose and I'm no longer in fade-away mode!


On a cold winter morning up on the hills,
With ice in my nostrils and a mist hanging over the mills,
Standing alone where the emptiness sighs
I reflect on the echoes of the past amidst its lingering cries.

In the chill air my conscience whispers softly to me
That the world only turns because that's how I want it to be.
My thoughts claw at the fabric of my will not to drown
But I know if I stop listening the whole world will come crashing down.

Existential paralysis in a thousand shades of grey
With no exit strategy - maybe I want it that way.
I feel that I've lived like a wandering tom,
As I stand all alone in this land where my father came from.

Can I liberate my future from the burden of the past?
Green signals in the distance tell me maybe I've come home at last.
Between safe horizons, one homeworld I see,
At each star point of the compass I find refuge in the earth's symmetry.

I'll find my way home, yes I'll find my way home...

On cobbled path, down leafy lane, in the aftermath of autumn rain
On lawns well-mown, through mountain pass, on overgrown wild summer grass
Through towering trees and velvet sward, on moonlit leas and splashing ford
'Cross heathered moor, down slippery track, through open door, no turning back
By standing stone in sacred grove, to sand that's blown from windswept cove
In glistening dew, on dizzy slopes, where green shoots grew and bore our hopes
On tumbling scree, on diamond snow, we'll always see which way to go
Round distant bend, by tranquil sea, to journey's end in certainty.

We'll find our way home, find our way home, find our way home.

© Alan Wrigley Jul 2022  


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