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Crow Hill

by Doug Johnstone

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Crow Hill 03:30
We were born in second place And we like it here just fine Arthur’s Seat is calling But I know that you are mine I wish that I could think The end is just the start But I watch the ambulance go And feel it in my heart Floating in the sky, it’s not our day to die But we got time to kill, sitting on Crow Hill Looking down below, it’s not our day to go But we got time to kill, sitting on Crow Hill We can see the beach from here Where you shouted at the sea Tried to hold it back And I knew you were the key We listen to the wind It makes me want to cry We watch the ships roll in And I know we have to try
I swam around the world Started in Japan Rippled across the Pacific Ocean I do the best I can I swam around the Cape Through the stormy seas I felt your love in the dark of the water Do anything you please I felt my body swell Fill with energy I did a dance with the whales and the dolphins Knew it had to be I travelled round the coast Caught a sight of land Tried to decode all the light from the lighthouse Taste the grit of sand I broke along the shore Landed at your feet I kissed the wash all the way to the shoreline Never felt so sweet And returned to the ocean To start again
The lights were all too bright When they wheeled me into surgery And I counted down from ten I felt it in my veins A cold and lonely honesty As they checked my date of birth again Cos you filled the hole in my heart Yeah you filled the hole in my heart The voices were all too loud When I woke up from infinity And I felt my heart go boom My blood was warmer now As it raced around my arteries Happy as it travelled on
Fifty million miles in the dead of night A canopy of stars is the only light I can hear your signal now but everyone is gone No one here to listen as I try to sing this song Baby all I need is a single spark Cos my battery is low and it’s getting dark Thousand morning kisses from a distant sun You know I’ve got a marathon left to run Storm on the horizon turning red skies into black This is just a one-way trip and I’m not coming back
The sun didn’t rise today Snow is on the ground Frozen in the air Birds don’t make a sound Get out of bed, get out of bed Get up and face the day Heaney said We can summer anywhere Do what we want If we winter this out But not this time On the shortest day The world didn’t turn today I floated into space Silence all around Moonlight on my face Come on and breathe, Come on and breathe Come on and save the day
Hey boy, put the gun away And sit down here Next to me and read this out loud Our crime is on the way down Given time you can turn yourself round Hey there, tie that rope to me And let’s dive down To the core below what we know Hey now, throw that knife away And relax, boy Burn the books until we feel warm
When the dog ran away And the snow came to stay I can see all the tears on your face That the signal-to-noise washed away Lost transmissions and forgotten codes We spent years getting high with our ghosts But we should’ve known that there’s always a cost And now those transmissions are lost When we drove down the road And the image just froze I can see all the blood on your hands Start to fade as the microwaves flow
The lighthouse on the shore Will burn forever more We sit here on the sand And hold each other’s hand I’m tangled up in you It’s all we ever do The ocean and the land You’re tangled up in me For everyone to see The water and the sand The birds return each year To nest below the pier We watch them fly away We’re changing every day
We used to run everywhere we went We used it up till our time was spent The universe is singing its own song all around Just close your eyes and touch the ground If we can slow the ticking of the clock We can learn the language of the rock We watch the hills everywhere we go They breathe a word only they can know Every million years is a blink in someone’s eye Just taste the air and hear them sigh
Kicked out of your home The second you were born Drifting through the lonely sunless places in between Time to come on home No matter where you are A planet without a star I’ll find you in the dark My planet without a star Come orbit next to me We’ll build a galaxy Sunlight on our faces and we’re dancing cheek to cheek Come on and feel the heat
When I sit down to die Sun too bright in the sky A chaos of bees and the cars glinting down below And my mouth is too dry And I don’t know what’s going on And the hammer in my head goes on and on And I can’t walk away No I can’t walk away And I can’t walk at all When I lean on your hand And I struggle to stand The scanner will find all the damage inside but I Don’t know where I will land And I don’t know what’s going on And the shaking in my hands goes on and on When I wake the next day And the light is too grey The blood in your brain’s trying to kill you he says and then Tries to shrug it away And I don’t know what’s going on And the flicker in my heart goes on and on
Watching you dance, there in the dark Over and over, we left a mark Shapes in the sand, lit by a flame Out of the darkness, I hear your name We find our patterns, in the skies above We find our patterns, in the ones we love We tell a story, and fall through time I found my pattern with your hand in mine Down by the shore, all on your own I heard your music, dropped like a stone Shapes in the air, sound of the sea Into the future, I know we’ll be free


Crow Hill sits next to Arthur’s Seat in my hometown of Edinburgh. It was while walking on the hill that I suffered a stroke in March 2020, and walking the same hill played a big part in my recovery. Three of the songs on the album directly reference my experiences – the dreampop title track, the plaintive rock of ‘A Chaos of Bees’ and the lush alternative country of ‘The Hole in My Heart’. The latter track is about the surgery I required to fix a hole in my heart, discovered as the reason for my stroke.

Elsewhere on the album there are songs about isolation and loneliness, not surprising given the events of the last seventeen months. But there are also songs of hope and joy, songs about finding a connection in the universe, about love and family. Musically it ranges from the celebratory indie of ‘The Water Returns to the Ocean’, through the ominous lo-fi textures of ‘Put the Gun Away’ to the delicate piano ballad of album closer ‘We Find Our Patterns’.


released July 19, 2021

All songs written and performed by Doug Johnstone.
Recorded in The Portobello Loft, March - May 2021.


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Doug Johnstone Edinburgh, UK

Doug has released four solo records, as well as four albums with Northern Alliance and one as The Ossians. He's also the drummer in the Fun Lovin' Crime Writers, a band of writers, and has had thirteen novels published.

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