Uke Tunes

Uke-ifying my favourite songs


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The Town I Loved So Well – The Dubliners

DublinersI was listening to the new Dexys album yesterday. “Let the Record Show: Dexys Do Irish and Country Soul” is a covers album with a loose Irish theme (loose in that it includes Rod Stewart and Joni Mitchell songs!). But it also includes a wonderful version of this gem, a song I loved but had almost forgotten about.

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The Town I Loved So Well comes from an unlikely source. Songwriter Phil Coulter was a professional musician, songwriter and arranger, responsible (amongst other things) for two Eurovision smashes (Puppet On A String, and Congratulations) as well as the England 1970 football squad’s Back Home, and the Bay City Rollers Shang-A-Lang. But away from the commercial focus of thos 60s and 70s pop hits, Coulter also indulged his love of Irish folk music, working with the likes of Planxty and The Dubliners. It was for the latter that he wrote this beautiful song.

Based on Coulter’s upbringing in Derry, Northern Ireland, the first three verses reflect on childhood memories of the two that he grew up in. But it is the juxtaposition of those verses with the final two which really gives the song it’s power. For in those verses he reflects on how all of that has been destroyed by the unrest and violence that gripped Northern Ireland during the last 60s and early 70s. Derry was the scene of the Bloody Sunday massacres, and much more deadly sectarian violence beside. And so the song is a lament for a lost innocence, and a forlorn reflection on what that violence has done to the place he loved.

And so the songsheet. Nothing tricky here, just four chords, for the most part straightforward timing. You can thrown a few Gsus4 chords in at the end of some of the lines, but it’s best kept simple. Sounds lovely when picked as well. Enjoy!
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Wayfaring Stranger

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wayfaringstrangerThe origins of this song, like so many in the folk tradition, appear lost in the mists of time. What is clear is that it is an American spiritual / folk song that surfaced in the 19th century, and has been variously adapted since then. There is no definitive version, no definitive set of lyrics (that I can discover). It is clearly of a spiritual nature, a song of life’s journey, of hope and looking to a better future in the light of the the troubles and hardships of today. Whilst there are explicitly religious (Christian) versions of the song (and I would guess that is undoubtedly its roots) the rather less specific / dogmatic nature of the first couple of verses have ensured a universal appeal.

That universality, and the beautiful, haunting nature of the song have ensured myriad versions of the song have been recorded. I was originally aware of the song from versions by Emmylou Harris (probably still my favourite), Eva Cassidy, Johnny Cash and Jack White (from the film “Cold Mountain“), but somebody has also tried to document all the versions out there – good luck to them with that! Of more recent and contemporary note is a version by Ed Sheeran, proving that it is a song that continues to speak to generation after generation.

So why a new ukulele song sheet? Well there are certainly plenty of versions out there, but none really did it for me by themselves. So this is something of a hybrid, culled from a number of sources. It’s in the same key as the Johnny Cash version, but purely because I find it easier to sing in that key. Transpose (or use a capo) if it doesn’t work for you. I’ve included two versions – page 1 I guess you called call the more universalist version, whilst page 2 includes the more explicitly religious verses (I sourced these from here). Take your pick dependent on your predilections. And enjoy! (BTW – if you fancy finger-picking, here is a pattern you might want to try)

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