Song of the Day: The Western Isles by Josh Rouse

Update 05/22/13 : I just heard Josh do a live interview/ 3 song session on a Radio station in London. He did play this song, so I listened closely to the lyrics during the refrain/bridge part. Sounds like I got the “Black Greece Tea” part right. I guess there is such a thing as Black Greece tea. The second part I didn’t have right, but I could hear him clearly and it’s “Maybe we’ve been daydreaming.” 

I should warn you. Probably about 90% of these songs are going to be Josh Rouse. He’s been my favorite singer/songwriter for the last going on 7 years now. So I’ve spent a lot of time trying to pick out his chords and enjoying singing his songs. I really should try to broaden out my repertoire though. REM, Smiths, Replacements, Police, really just anytime I hear a song I like, I should at least take a crack at it. Can’t hurt.

Anyway today’s song: “The Western Isles” by Josh Rouse. It’s the 9th track off his most recent album “The Happiness Waltz.”

What made me pick it, was not only did I love the song, but something reminded me that it was a Google Play Music pick of the day a few weeks ago. That’s all I need. Plus I couldn’t get it out of my head.

First off what’s interesting about this song is that it is in the Key of A, but there’s never an A chord in the song. It starts out on a Dmaj7 then to an Emaj. The main riff kind of swings back in forth between those two chords, as well as the verse, with an F#m thrown in for an accent. Another interesting thing about this song: It has a bass driven riff. So, that’s one reason I sort of steered clear of it. I thought that within the context of me just playing with an acoustic, and maybe a harmonica, that I really couldn’t present that main riff motif. But I found that with an A harmonica, I can sort of imitate that bass riff, which itself is echoed, during the songs’ interludes, by a lovely sounding organ in the original recording.

Also, it’s one of those Josh songs where he sings something, I just can’t decipher, and apparently no one else can either, because when I did a lyric search, all the sites that have the lyrics for this song have a “?” by this same passage. The best I can decipher it, and you’ll know the part I’m talking about if you listen to the song, is “Cigarettes and black Greece tea.” Oh, speaking musically, this is on the refrain part of the song, which begins on an F#m, and then kind of stays on that chord with a half step down bass line F#-F-E-Eb- at which point when it arrives at the D it just goes into the D chord itself for the “Could we…” and the “feel at” is on top of the E chord, back to the D chord for “home”

On the second time that it does that refrain it repeats the passage with words I totally can’t understand. I mean the “Cigarettes and black Greece tea” sound like they almost could be right, or have a chance of being right, but this second passage, I just have make something up, which I know is wrong, but still work to get me through the song: “Maybe we’ve been patron leave.”

This leads me to a rant: Why is it so damn hard to get the lyrics and or liner notes to these albums nowadays?! It makes me crazy. Why doesn’t Josh and all the other acts publish these things on their websites or whatever? Damn, it’s frustrating.

Anyway, I’ll publishing the words as I’m doing them at this moment. Maybe these artists think that’s part of the fun of it, part of the “mystery” of being a Shamanesque type of figure. Maybe. Whatever.

 

The Western Isles by Josh Rouse from The Happiness Waltz

Verse 1:

All day, I can see the life from the western isles

Faded in white like a western smile

We could live here, you know.

Nobody’s saved, caught up in a life that is based on lies

Struggle and strife from the nights of fire

Just getting by, you know.

Refrain:

Cigarettes and black greece  tea…

could we feel at home?

Verse 2:

Far, far away,

I can hear the birds on western isles

Singing in the night like an ancient choir

‘Oh how I love you so’

Don’t worry baby,

You’ll be alright with the western smile

Maybe there’s a life on the western isles

In a few years or so.

Refrain #2:

Cigarettes and black green tea

maybe we’ve been daydreaming.

And we’re almost home (This is sort of a “Middle Eight” part where, instead of going back into that D chord, he uses the F#m with the walk down bass riff)

Almost home…

(And then back in into the Dmaj7-E back and forth for the ending lines to fade out and echo on.)

Headin’ for the western isles

We heading for the western isles

We heading for the western isles

We heading for the western isles

Oh where do we wanna go?

Oh where do we wanna go?

 

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