Songstories #1: A Forest Trail In Autumn


I’ve neglected this site for a while as all my attention’s been focused on getting my business site Light Touch Learning up. I’ve moved all the work stuff from this site to that, to focus here on my music.

I’m going to pick a random song from the back catalogue every so often and write something about it. Today it’s A Forest Trail in Autumn from my Wolf album.

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Forest trails are a potent image to me. I was brought up with a fairly wild wood and river (Craigie woods in Ayr) just at the foot of the garden and spent most of my time as a kid, when I wasn’t engrossed in comics, wandering the woods. Particularly emotive is the time of twilight in the woods, dawdling when I knew it was time to go home for tea, and knowing it would soon get dark and scary. As a teenager, I’d deliberately walk home through the woods at night because I could remember so recently being afraid to. Strangely, though, when I think of this song I picture the area of Queensferry called Shellbeds, and the forest walk there. I can’t remember for sure but I think I started making up the song while walking there.

On my album last year I put out my musical setting of the William Butler Yeats poem The Song of Wandering Aengus.  It’s been a favourite all my life but it’s only now I realise it must have been the inspiration for A Forest Trail:  a man is in the forest, has a seemingly random encounter and his life is destroyed by it. In Aengus he catches a fish which turns into an enchanting woman with whom he becomes obsessed.  In Forest Trail it’s a more mundane encounter, a chance meeting with a woman; the man – for reasons he doesn’t know and will spend his life wondering – reaches out and stops her. A wordless encounter then both go on their way, but she seems to know his fate. In both there’s a sense that the male character was doomed from the start, and that he’ll never know why.

I was probably in the throes of recording this exactly ten years ago; I can remember layering track upon track in Cubase but leaving some almost inaudible, just suggestions of ambient sound. The starting point was a click track of a cymbal, with a delay on it.  Everything was built up on that.  It think this was the first track in which I used a ‘frippertronics’ loop, repeating away out of time in the background.  I used the technique, much favoured by Eno, of fading the track in as well as out, to give the impression it’s always playing somewhere and we’re just being admitted to part of the story. I was never sure the track would be good enough for the album until I built up the little instrumental bit in the middle – then I knew I had something.

I never played the song live until my 2013 Fringe show as I didn’t think I could do justice to the middle part with just a guitar.

Anyway, thanks for visiting and I hope you enjoy hearing the song again – or for the first time.

A Forest Trail in Autumn

It was in autumn time
The wind was a dusty line
Shifting the broken leaves
Under my feet

I walked a forest trail
The afternoon sky grew pale
A woman with grey-black hair
I chanced to meet

She had a stranger’s eye
Started to pass me by
I reached out and stopped her short
My hand on her arm

The wind whispered through the wood
I knew she understood
Better than me
I’d do her no harm

We held each other’s gaze
As daylight began to haze
Maybe an hour had passed
As the light turned to grey

The wind became restless then
I came to myself again
‘God protect you’ she said
And  turned away

All through the winter freeze
Into the late spring breeze
I searched that forest trail
For a glimpse of her face

All through the summer’s light
I hid in my room till night
I could not sleep I could not eat
I went back to that place

Under a tree I sat
Close to that very spot
Where I once reached out my hand
I still don’t know why

Under the broken moon
Winter is coming soon
Under these falling leaves
I come and I cry.

Copyright Norman Lamont 1995


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