Songwriting Basics Section II – Analysis 25: Me and Kenny

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Bob Leslie is an Independent Scottish Songwriter, Singer, and Recording Artist

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Big men, small car, high hills, low valleys …

Many moons ago, an agent booked me into a fortnight-long tour of clubs in South Wales. wales.gifI didn’t drive at the time, but the money was good enough to cover car-hire and a roadie.

Kenny was the younger brother of a friend of mine, and I knew he was free, so I asked him if he wanted the job. He agreed, and we hired the cheapest car we could find – a very small and cramped Renault with just room enough for the two of us, some clothes, and my guitar.

I bid farewell to the lady I was then sharing my life with, and off we went.

The gigs were great: enthusiastic audiences, keen to join in, and bed and breakfast were supplied – although not always 5-star quality. I even got asked for my autograph (and that doesn’t happen often)!

 

rug.gifThe car, though, was a VERY tight fit – we were both 6’3″ (and Kenny had a rugby-player build) and I kept expecting an audible “POP” whenever we got out of it – I think the Welsh must have reckoned Scotsmen must be giants!

 

After a week of cramped trundling about the valleys, and all the late nights, I began to grumble. Kenny, who was several years younger than me, cheerfully took the mickey, saying it was all down to my advanced years.

However, we eventually made it home in one piece – although the car’s gearbox was giving off an ominous burning-caramel smell. It was a great tour, and I tucked it away in my memories.

When it came to putting together my 2017 album Land and Sea, I was a track short, and that long-ago memory of trekking through the valleys with Kenny suddenly popped into my mind.

I was mucking about with an open C5 tuning on my guitar, doing a bit of Travis picking, and the whole thing just suddenly came to me, almost as fast as I could sing it.

After a wee bit of editing, polishing-up, and the addition of a fiddle and ‘cello arrangement (courtesy of Kate Kramer and Wendy Weatherby), we recorded it. I think it’s got a kind of hypnotic sound to it, and my hyper-critical offspring claim to like it, so, there you are, it must be OK!winker

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Lend an ear and an eye …

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Me and Kenny

© 2017 Bob Leslie

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Stress: the metre readings …
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The song has a nice regular stress pattern, all the way through, as follows:

Ll1, 2, & 5 – 5 stresses

Ll 3 & 4 – 3 stresses

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will.gifWith some very minor variations (an occasional extra syllable squeezed in), the verses use the following metres:


Ll 1
&are in good old Shakespearean  iambic pentametre (5 x dah-DUM) –

  • “| Last night | I dreamed | the soft | warmth of | your skin |
    and I | woke think– | -ing I |was home | a-gain” |”

Ll 3 & 4 each consist of one anapest (dah-dah-DUM) & two iambs (dah-DUM) –

  • “| But the cold | grey light | of dawn |
    threw one sha– | -dow on | the wall |”

And L5 has one anapest, and four iambs

  • “| Of the cheap | cold wa– | -ter room | that I | was in |”

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The chorus changes the metre around a bit.


L1
has five trochees (DUM-dah) –

  • “| Me and | Ken-ny | driv-ing | through the | val-leys |”

L2 goes back to iambic pentametre

  • “| An-oth– |-er night | an-oth– | -er emp– | -ty stage |”

L3 has three iambs

  • “| I’m get– | -ting might– | -y worn |”

L4 has two trochees and a single stressed syllable

  • “| Wish-ing | I was | home |”

And L5 has four trochees and a single stressed syllable 

  • “| Ken-ny | laughs and | says it’s | just my | age |”

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Rhyme those lines … rhy.gif

The verses all end-rhyme following this pattern (although some half-rhymes are used):

  • A  A  B  B  A
  • “skin” “again”
    “dawn” “wall”
    “in”

The chorus goes

  • A  B  C  C  B
  • “valleys”
    “stage”
    “worn” “home”
    “age”

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Droning in key …

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The kind of bagpipey drone one looks for in an open C5 tuning (C  G  C  G  C  C) more or less dictates C major as the optimum key, so that’s what I used!

There is a sprinkling of Am and Em chords in the the song, but both those chords are perfectly compatible with C major – so, no worries then!

If you’re going to use the open tuning, the major chords are all either open strings (C major), or just barréd all the way across (F major and G major). 

The minor chords just use two fingers on the 4th and 5th strings and let the other strings provide a harmonic drone effect.

The Am has the 1st finger on the 2nd fret of the 5th string, and the 3rd finger on the 4th fret of the 4th string.

The Em just reverses the fingering: 1st finger on the 2nd fret of the 4th string, and the 3rd finger on the 4th fret of the 5th string.

The drone effect gives a very Celtic folky feel to the song.

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Did the musical cake turn out ok? …cake.gif

Melody-wise, it’s a simple, folky tune with a warm-sounding accompaniment created by keeping it all in one key, and thus taking full advantage of the drone-effect open C5 tuning (it’s called C5 because it has only the tonic and the 5th notes – there’s no 3rd).

Folk-clubs like choruses, and it’s certainly got one of those!

It has a reasonably-interesting story in the lyric, combined with a regular rhyme, metre, and stress pattern – so it should be easy to pick up and remember.

There is a strong contrast between verse and chorus which provides the song with more to interest a listener.

And my kids like it, so that’s that!
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Next time, we’ll examine a venerable survivor from a past age of folk music!

 

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PS I came across this – it’s a good site for beginner writers:
https://www.ghostswelcome.com/

Of course, I’d also recommend checking out Section 1 of my own blog!

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Bob Leslie – Scottish – Traditional – Songwriter

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