Short Sharp Shanties Vol. 1

by John Short

This is the first of three CDs which record the repertoire of John Short – a.k.a. Yankee Jack – of Watchet, Somerset in England’s West Country, who, in 1914, gave the folk-song collector Cecil Sharp nearly sixty shanties, several in early rare versions. John spent over fifty years working in sailing boats, much of his younger days in deep-water ships, sailing all around the world as a shantyman. He was born in 1839; went to sea with his father when he was nine; went deep sea at eighteen; married and retired from the deep water trade in his mid-thirties and died when he was ninety-two, in 1933.

Sharp said of him:

“He has the folk-singer’s tenacious memory and… very great musical ability. His voice is rich, resonant and powerful, yet so flexible that he can execute trills, turns and graces with a delicacy and finish that would excite the envy of many a professional artist. Mr. Short has spent more than fifty years in sailing-ships and throughout the greater part of his career was a recognised chanteyman, i.e. the solo-singer who led the chanteys. It would be difficult, I imagine, to find a more experienced exponent of the art of chantey-singing, and I account myself peculiarly fortunate in having made his acquaintance in the course of my investigations and won his generous assistance.”

Sung by: Jim Mageean, Jeff Warner, Keith Kendrick, Jackie Oates, Roger Watson, Sam Lee, Brian Willoughby, Tom Brown, Barbara Brown, Doug Bailey.



We have kept closely to the tunes that John sang to Cecil Sharp and also used the verses he sang – although he usually only sang a couple and explained that, unless there was actually a story-line, verses were improvised at the time. The titles of the shanties are given as they were recorded in Cecil Sharp’s field note books. Evidently, John Short did always tell him a title – several are better known by the title in brackets. Fuller and more detailed information on each shanty - mss. no., chorus and musician names, version comparisons, how the recordings were arrived at, etc. - can be found on the web at www.umbermusic.co.uk/SSSnotes.htm.

S&A Projects and WildGoose Records are grateful for assistance and support for this project from Chris Roche: The Shanty Crew, Jeff Wesley: Whittlebury Song & Ale, Hilary Bix, and the performers themselves. Our thanks for help also go to Malcolm Taylor and staff of the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library at Cecil Sharp House, where we were able to work from the original manuscripts. Photographs of John Short and Cecil Sharp courtesy of the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library. Design: Hilary Bix

1. Sing Fare You Well - Keith Kendrick 
Not to be confused with Goodbye, Fare Thee Well – that’s homeward bound, this is outward! This waltz-time capstan song probably originated as a Negro work-song.

2. The Blackball Line - Roger Watson 
Short told Sharp he used this as a capstan shanty – other collectors give it variously for every job going!  The Blackball Line was the first line of transatlantic packets to run regular, twice monthly, trips across the pond and had a fearsome reputation for discipline.  William Tapscott was an agent for the Blackball Line (and others) until he and his brother started their own – Tapscott’s Line – we’ll meet him again in the next shanty.

3. Mr. Tapscott - Sam Lee 
The tune here is New York Girls (originally Larry Doonan) but the text is a widespread story often called The Irish Girl or Yellow Meal and sung to a different shanty – Heave Away Me Johnny.  The Tapscotts were a Minehead (the next town to Watchet) family, but their business was arranging emigrant passages – William worked from Liverpool, and James from New York - until William was found guilty of fraud in 1849 and sentenced to thee years’ penal servitude.

4. A Hundred Years on the Eastern Shore - Jeff Warner 
Widely known these days, this shanty is rarer in the early collections than one might expect, although Hugill thinks it might be the shanty referred to by Dana, in Two Years Before the Mast, as Time For Us to Go.  Whatever its age or origin, it’s a fine halyards shanty with plenty of verse/chorus overlap!

5. Fire! Fire! (Fire Down Below) - Jackie Oates 
A popular pumping shanty.  It seems to originate in a stage minstrelsy song although, as a shanty, the text is pure sailor!  It could last, if necessary, as long as you could think of bits of the ship to set light to.

6. Hanging Johnny - Tom Brown 
Another halyards shanty.  There is some disagreement between published collections as to whether the shantyman was hangman or merely commentator – John Short, certainly, did not cast himself in the role of hangman.

7. Rio Grande - Roger Watson 
An extremely widespread and popular outward-bound capstan shanty.  Short’s version, as so often, has minor variations to the most popular version of later years.  It probably refers to the Rio Grande de Sul in Brazil rather then the Mexican Rio Grande.  Roger gives it an almost fo’c’s’le feel – and certainly wistful, if not melancholic.

8. Cheerly Man - Barbara Brown 
John Short told Cecil Sharp that this was the first shanty he learnt.  It is a very primitive shanty – barely more than crying-out – and Short’s version is unusual in having only three lines to the verse instead of the more common four.  This version of the text is for catting the anchor.

9. Poor Old Man (Johnny Come Down to Hilo) - Keith Kendrick   
A capstan shanty that goes under a variety of names including: O Wake Her O Shake Her, Girl with the Blue Dress On, as well as Johnny Come Down To Hilo, etc.  Probably Negro in origin.  The Dead Horse verses would eventually become associated only with the Dead Horse Ceremony but in earlier days, it would seem, its use was broader.

10. The Bully Boat (Ranzo Ray) - Tom Brown   
Another capstan shanty often called Ranzo Ray.  It probably originated from Negro chants that were used in the Southern USA ‘cotton ports’ to work the jack-screws that compressed cotton bales into the holds of ships.  These songs often started with the crews of the river-boats that brought the bales of cotton down rivers like the Mississipi or the Alabama to coastal ports like New Orleans or Mobile.

11. Stormalong John (Stormy Along, John) - Jim Mageean 
One of many shanties that celebrate, or at least refer to, the archetypal sailor Stormy, or Stormalong.  Short’s version is a beautiful example of the fact that a tune does not have to have musical bars all the same length in order to give a consistent working rhythm.

12. Blow Boys Blow (Banks of Sacramento) - Tom Brown 
More usually known as the Banks of Sacramento, Short’s first verse of this capstan shanty is a direct sailor’s borrowing from the minstrel song Camptown Races – although it is debatable whether Stephen Foster’s song came first or the Hutchinson Family’s Banks of the Sacramento – either way, this shanty was a favourite at sea.

13. Carry Him to the Burying Ground (General Taylor) - Sam Lee 
Another shanty that refers to Stormy.  Despite its popularity in recent years, this is a rare shanty in the collections.  The extraordinary melodic lines of the shantyman’s lead, in what might be regarded as ‘chorus’, were, with difficulty, meticulously notated by Sharp, and are virtually impossible to replicate in performance – Sam has followed the style rather than the exact notation.  Other shantymen tend to sing a very simplified version – or give it all to the crew as chorus.

14. Bulgine Run (Let the Bulgine Run) - Barbara Brown 
John Short called two of his shanties Bulgine Run – this capstan shanty is better known as Run, Let the Bulgine Run to distinguish it from Clear the Track, Let the Bulgine Run also known as Liza Lee.  Short gave this to Sharp as a capstan shanty although, given the elaborate second shantyman’s line, its structure is that of a halyards song.

15. Shallow Brown - Jim Mageean 
Short’s words are more usually associated, in the revival, with Blow, Boys, Blow.  This is an intriguing version, with Sharp notating it varying between 2:4 and 3:4.  It’s a hauling shanty and Jim nails it down completely – it couldn’t sound any other way!

16. Won’t You Go My Way? - Jeff Warner 
Another rare shanty – only Hugill gives a version other than John Short’s.  Almost certainly Negro in origin.  Short told Sharp that it was used for screwing cotton in the cotton ports – but he used it at sea for hauling.

17. Blow Boys, Come Blow Together (Blow, Me Bully Boys, Blow) - Keith Kendrick 
It’s a toss-up whether this shanty started life in the packet ships or in the Guinea slave trade, based around the Congo River.  It was certainly a widespread and popular shanty and the different versions vary very little.

18. Tommy’s Gone (Tommy’s Gone Away) - Jackie Oates 
A beautiful variant of the shanty Tom’s Gone To Ylo, but quite distinct in tune and feeling.  Apart from Short’s version, Hugill is the only other published source, his version coming from a South Wales seaman.  There is also a version collected by Carpenter from Barry docks. Thus all the known versions come from the Severn estuary – even so, Short told Sharp it was used for cotton screwing at Mobile Bay.

Sing Fare You Well
The Blackball Line
Sample not available
Mr. Tapscott
A Hundred Years on the Eastern Shore
Fire! Fire! (Fire Down Below)
Sample not available
Hanging Johnny
Sample not available
Rio Grande
Sample not available
Cheerly Man
Sample not available
Poor Old Man (Johnny Come Down to Hilo)
Sample not available
The Bully Boat (Ranzo Ray)
Stormalong John (Stormy Along
Blow Boys Blow (Banks of Sacramento)
Sample not available
Carry Him to the Burying Ground (General Taylor)
Sample not available
Bulgine Run (Let the Bulgine Run)
Sample not available
Shallow Brown
Sample not available
Won’t You Go My Way?
Sample not available
Blow Boys
Me Bully Boys
Sample not available
Tommy’s Gone (Tommy’s Gone Away)

Folk Northwest

Derek Gifford

This CD is the first in a 3 volume series from a joint project by S & A Projects and Wild Goose. They feature the repertoire of John Short ('Yankee Jack') of Watchet, Somerset which was collected by Cecil Sharp in 1914. The recordings are dedicated to the memory of shanty singer Johnny Collins who died in 2009 and who was, naturally, to have been involved in the project.

Full details of the songs, the artistes and more information on John Short can be found at www.umbermusic.co.uk/SSSnotes.htm a look at which I fully recommend.

There are 18 songs featured on this album ably performed by some of our finest traditional artistes including Jim Mageean, Keith Kendrick, Jackie Oates, Roger Watson, Sam Lee, Brian Willoughby and Tom and Barbara Brown. The U.S. is aptly represented by Jeff Warner and even Doug Bailey manages to nip from behind the recording desk to join in the choruses!

Many of the songs are accompanied like the first track Sing Fare You Well appropriately being an outward bound song and one that is ably led by my old mate Keith Kendrick playing concertina. There are 'new' versions of many well known shanties such as Hanging Johnny, Rio Grande, Poor Old Man, Blow Boys Blow and Shallow Brown to name but a few. The latter by the way is the hauling version of the song not the forebitter lament.

The Bully Boat led by Tom Brown was a particularly interesting version of the better known Ranzo Ray although the chorus here is sung as 'Rando Ray'. Similarly the version of Stormalong John, led by Jim Mageean, is quite different from the more familiar ones. Sam Lee does a good job leading Short's unusual version of General Taylor which is entitled Carry Him to His Burying Ground.

I particularly liked the idea of getting Barbara Brown to do the lead on Cheerily Man which works really well even though there weren't many shantywomen (were there any at all I wonder?) in the days of sail. The newest song to me was a rare shanty called Won't You Go My Way? sung and accompanied by Jeff Warner.

This is a real treasure chest (pun intended!) of shanties that can only be enhanced by the production of the next two volumes which are planned for release in the Autumn of 2011. I can't wait to hear them.

Giff'

Mardles

Colin Cater

Tom and Barbara Brown of Combe Martin, North Devon have assembled a singing crew in collaboration with Doug and Sue Bailey of WildGoose to bring back to life the songs of John Short of Watchet, a.k.a. Yankee Jack, in a three volume CD set of which this is the first. John Short sailed before the mast in the mid C19, the glory years of sail and was collected in the early C20 as an old man both by Cecil Sharp and Richard Runciman Terry. Although Short's On Board the Rosabella is now well known, most of his versions have faded from memory as a result of work undertaken largely by MacColl/Lloyd and Stan Hu gill in the 1960s / 70s, a situation that hopefully this project will reverse. 'Short

Sharp Shanties' stands favourable comparison with Topic's 'Farewell Nancy' and other past compilations. Not many of the song versions have been aired anywhere recently and there are some rattling good performances. Keith Kendrick's languid concertina playing and singing (Sing Fare You Well, Poor Old Man particularly) mark him out as a master craftsman, while Jim Mageean's leathery old shellback Stormalong John is the work of a true Old Master. Tom Brown's Bully Boat (Ranzo) is a joy, while the banjo playing and gravelly singing of America's Jeff Warner (A Hundred Years on the Eastern Shore; Won't you go my way) will hopefully contribute more next time. Neither should anyone be sexist: Barbara Brown (Cheerly Man) is an excellent shantyman, while Jackie Oates does poignant beautifully closing the set with Tommy's Gone, ever more like Anne Briggs every time you hear her.

Although shanties / sea songs probably originated in the triangular trade between Britain, West Africa and the Americas (C17 19, they spread all over the world and reflect myriad musical traditions. Neither were they exclusively work songs as many originated in the pubs, bordellos and knocking shops on shore. This collection reflects this well ? also the fact that singing conventions have changed in England since the 1960s ? things are softer now and recreation is emphasised as much as work, a reality also recognised in the song interpretations offered here. Hopefully several festivals, both specialist shanty bashes and folk festivals will have the dosh to assemble this splendid crew to perform Short's shanties live, but if you like sea songs or dare I even say it, want to learn a new one, this CD is a more than worthwhile investment. Congratulations to all concerned in its making.

The Boat Shed

Gavin Atkins

I know it's a bit unconventional, but I sing in the car. I was once stopped by a couple of police officers worried I was crazed by drink or drugs, but I'm unrepentant about my technique for relieving the nearly unbearable tedium of driving: it keeps me cheerful and it's a darn sight better than dozing off.

For the past fortnight I've been singing wherever I go, and the reason for all the noise in recent days is that the CD Short Sharp Shanties: sea songs of a Watchet sailor is newly released and on my CD player.

It's the first of three volumes of sea songs collected from shantyman John Short by the noted folk song and dance collector Cecil Sharp. The songs are bloody marvellous, with strong anthemic choruses and often simple but highly effective tunes that have something in common with both playground songs and the best rock'n'roll classics.

They're also easy to memorise for your own use � say for rowing, singing in a session or pub, or just keeping yourself awake behind the wheel � because so much of a shanty is repeated.

Short's shanties are particularly interesting because they are often different versions from those collected later, for example by shantyman-turned-scholar Stan Hugill (buy his excellent books here). Some of them also seem to reveal just a little more of the African element of their origins.

The words of the verses and choruses cover all sorts of topics, from bragging fantasies about being missed by the girls of various ports and of home, excitement at going on a voyage somewhere exotic and strange, pride in the vessels, and the vicious bullying meted out by the captains and mates.

While the songs themselves are uniformly splendid, the performances on this first Short Sharp Shanties collection are extremely varied � with the result that listeners will inevitably like some more than others. This is because Tom and Barbara Brown, who led the project, and CD label boss Doug Bailey arranged for the songs to be led by a collection of very different of well-known singers, not all of them noted for singing this kind of material, and allowed them arrange and perform the material in the way they wished. So at different times the singers sound variously like hard-working sons of toil, carefully wrought works of scholarship and the dreamy laments wistful fair maidens.

That's how it's gone with shanties in the decades since the end of the commercial cargo-carrying sailing ships � around the maritime festivals, folk festivals and folk clubs they are often presented in all these ways and more.

The worksong type of approach adopted here by Tom and Barbara Brown, Keith Kendrick, Jeff Warner and a very piratey-sounding Jim Mageean must be the most appropriate, but it has to be said that the Jackie Oates's very un-blokey arrangement of Tommy's Gone is so pretty I can imagine it becoming a kind of folkie hit single.

Roger Watson's pleasant, very musical approach to these songs is also more tune and arrangement and less work. Sam Lee's brave and effective attempt to recreate Short's extraordinary wandering style of singing verses provides a fascinating insight � though it's difficult to see how the working party could know when the pull or push might be coming.

If only Sharp had used sound recording equipment instead of paper and pencil, we'd know so much more about how they used to sing this stuff � or at least we'd know how an elderly gentleman of 92 years performed them long after he left the rythmic toil involved in working capstans and pumps and hauling halliards.

In the meantime, I'm looking forward to volume 2 of this collection. I don't know when it's due for release, but when it comes out I plan to enjoy some more bawling, ranting and roaring behind the wheel. In the meantime, why not buy a copy of volume 1 and join me?

Tykes News

Jim Lawson

In the last issue of Tykes' we flagged up the near completion of Tom and Barbara Brown's project to bring the entire shanty repertoire of John Short of Watchet, as collected by Cecil Sharp in 1914, to the public.  This is the first of a series of three CDs, with the second and third to be release later this year.

This is, I have to say, an outstanding piece of work.  There is a danger that projects like this can end up with a rather dry academic feel, or are so esoteric that they are only of interest to the specialist as source material.  This CD falls into neither of these traps.  The ethos of this project was not to attempt 'authentic' rendering but to allow for variation in treatment, sometimes letting the song's roots show, sometimes just enjoying the improvisation Short himself might have employed, sometimes letting the instruments add variety to the totality of the project � but never obscuring the songs from being understandable, at base, as working shanties.  The lead singer was allowed to create a rendition that they felt comfortable with, with choruses provided by other of the project artists.  The result is that the singers and musicians have created an extraordinarily varied collection of tracks.

I think there is a tendency in the folk world to be a little dismissive of sea shanties, consigning them to a genre-ghetto, regarded as a rather unsophisticated subculture.  I hope that no such prejudice will prevent anyone from enjoying the massive variety of arrangement and delivery on this CD.  The list of artists alone � Tom and Barbara Brown, Keith Kendrick, Sam Lee, Jim Mageean, Jackie Oates, Jeff Warner, Roger Watson and Brian Willoughby � will give you some idea of how extensive is the talent which has been applied to what are an already very interesting selection of songs.  Interesting, because we know many of them in modern polished versions, and here we see the roots from which those versions grew.  Sometimes very deep roots indeed.

So I invite you to enjoy a mixture of the old and new � Jackie Oates singing 'Fire Down Below', Tome Brown singing 'The Bully Boat' or Sam Lee singing 'Mr Tapscott', and a multiplicity of other wonderful songs and performances � eighteen in all.  There are those who might consider me biased in my enthusiasm for sea songs, but I have to say that I can't imagine many of you who would not be delighted with this CD for its pure entertainment value, if nothing else.

Folk London

Peter Crabbe-Wyke

In 1914 Cecil Sharp met John �Yankee Jack� Short of Watchet in Somerset.  Mr Short was a former shantyman and gave Sharp over 60 shanties.  These were remembered from a period decades earlier than when Stan Hugill was learning his repertoire so are often different from the versions that are sung today.

Tom and Barbara Brown were instrumental in starting a project to record the entire set, there will be 2 more CDs following this, and also to produce a book about Mr Short's life.

This CD has eight different singers taking the shantyman role on the 18 tracks plus Doug Bailey and Brian Willoughby by helping on the choruses.  Keith Kendrick opens the CD with Sing Fare You Well a capstan shanty in waltz time which he accompanies on concertina.  This fades out at the end, as do several other tracks, which is a conceit that I find irritating although not enough to detract from the content.  This is followed by Roger Watson with The Blackball Line with the sort of roof raising delivery that we generally  regard as appropriate for shanties although that probably has more to do with the late great Johnny Collins than with historical accuracy.

Sam Lee and Jackie Oates make unlikely shantymen but Oates' gentle delivery of Fire Down Below brings out the underlying double entendre beautifully.

Jeff Warner accompanies himself on banjo on Won't You Go My Way with Jackie Oates on the chorus and puts it down for A Hundred Years on the Eastern Shore, a very fine halyard shanty.  

I did wonder if there had been some bowdlerisation of the texts as there are a couple of shanties where the better known versions include language no longer thought acceptable but they have been true to the texts as noted by Sharp although Mr Short only had fragments of some songs and these have been filled out from other sources.

The other singers on the recording are Tom and Barbara Brown of course and Jim Mageean whose performances are as excellent as you would expect.

If you expect every shanty to be belted out at full volume then you are going to be a little disappointed with this.  A good proportion go off in full bodied bar-room style but each singer gives his or her own interpretation which gives interesting variations and variety to the finished product.  This CD comes with a buy recommendation not just for the shanty specialist but for the general listener too.

EDS

Roy Palmer

John Short of Watchet in Somerset, who spent over fifty years at sea, died in 1933 at the age of 92.  In a series of session between April and September 1914, Cecil Sharp took down over fifty shanties from him, noting: 'Mr Short is an old salt who served on a sailing ship � more latterly half steam & half sail � all over the world, India China S. America etc.  He was in N. America at the time of the Civil War.'  According to Maud Karpeles, Sharp was impressed by 'John Short's rich, resonant and powerful voice which is �yet so flexible that he can execute trills, turns and graces with a delicacy and finish that would excite the envy of many a professional artist�'.

A number of the 'Short Sharp' shanties were among the Novello songbooks used in schools between the 1920s and the 1950s or 60s but they have featured little in the performances of subsequent revival singers.  Until now, that is, with the first of three CDs which set out systematically to explore John Short's repertoire.  Because he was born in 1830, this includes unusual and early versions, including rarities such as 'Tommy's Gone' and 'Won't You Go My Way?'

Jim Mageean, Jeff Warner, Keith Kendrick, Jackie Oates, Roger Watson, Sam Lee, Brian Willoughby, Tom Brown and Barbara Brown are involved here, the voices backed at times by their own concertina, fiddle, banjo, melodeon and Doug Bailey's guitar.  They make the point that 'We would not attempt �authentic� renditions � we were in a recording studio, not working a ship.'  As a result, the effect is one of emotion recollected in tranquillity from 'a long time ago', and it is both effective and at times moving.  Nevertheless, the listener is well aware that this is a collection of work songs.  Whose steps around the capstan would fail to be galvanised by the brisk rhythms of Keith Kendrick's 'Poor Old Man' or the sinuous melismata of Sam Lee's 'Carry Him to the Burying Ground'?  The whole CD, sometimes reflective, like Jackie Oates's 'Tommy's Gone', with its instrumental breaks, sometimes more wild, like Barbara Brown's 'Bulgine Run', is a fine piece of work which makes one look forward to its companion volumes.  

FolkNews Kernow

CWR

No don't cringe, these 18 tracks are instantly likeable. It's party-time here for a gang of great singers, Jim Mageean, Jeff Warner, Keith Kendrick, Jackie Oates, Roger Watson, Sam Lee, and more. What's more there's some backing music that's exactly right. Well done Doug of Wildgoose, this is super! AND it's only Volume 1 (two more to come). What a great fella John Short of Watchet must have been. Grab this one lads (and lassies) and remember Johnny Collings who was supposed to be on it. Best track: Cheerly Man by Barbara Brown.

Folk Roundabout

David Kidman

This attractively punningly-titled disc is the first of a projected series of three CDs which will record the repertoires of John Short (aka Yankee Jack) of Watchet, Somerset, who in 1914 gave Cecil Sharp nearly 60 shanties (many no doubt having been collected during his tenure as a shantyman).  WildGoose's choice of artists for this repertoire is highly appropriate � all making the most of their individual lead roles (shared out at generally two apiece) are Jim Mageean, Keith Kendrick, Roger Watson, Tom & Barbara Brown, Jeff Warner, Jackie Oates and Sam Lee, with contributions from Brian Willoughby (guitar) and producer Doug Bailey and chorus vocals and fine harmonies from all the singers involved.  Fittingly, the whole enterprise is dedicated to the memory of Johnny Collins.  These performances are carried out in an authentic spirit � not authentic in the literal �on-board-ship� sense, but instead in the adoption of guiding principles authentic to Short's practices, first in including the incorporation of all Short's texts and tunes (although sometimes needing to expand on the original, fragmentary sources) and second in enjoying the element of improvisation Short himself might have employed.  A judicious degree of instrumentation adds variety to the totality of the project, without intruding on the important fact that by nature these shanties were after all work songs.  What all this means is that these renditions are invariably refreshingly different from the standard lusty shanty-crew outings we're accustomed to hearing � not just in textual matters but in character too.  Roger Watson's treatment of Rio Grande, for instance, is supremely wistful, while Jackie Oates' take on the pumping shanty Fire Down Below is both unexpected and delightful (and her tender Tommy's Gone Away variant, which closes the disc, is truly a thing of beauty), and Sam's doleful moaning version of General Taylor takes its cues from the extraordinarily wilful melodic lines scrupulously notated by Sharp.  There's no lack of lustiness in these renditions, however: just sample Tom's accounts of Ranzo Ray (The Bully Boat) and Hanging Johnny, and Barbara Brown's Cheerly Man and Let The Bulgine Run in particular.  Jim turns in a definitive account of the not-often-heard Stormy Along, John and also offers us the intriguing multi-metred Shallow Brown, while Tom's Camptown-style rendition of Blow, Boys, Blow (Banks of Sacramento) comes complete with fiddle and banjo.  My only quibble is that for some inexplicable reason a small number of the tracks receive a fadeout ending.  This stimulating release should have a wide appeal outwith shanty specialists; I look forward to volumes two and three.  

R2

Dai Jeffries

Short refers to John Short, otherwise known as Yankee lack, a shantyman from Watchet, Somerset. Sharp is Cecil J who collected Yankee lack's repertoire of nearly sixty shanties in 1914.

The series of three CDs of which this is the first will present Short's entire repertoire but this is neither a dry, historical work nor a grog fuelled bellow. No one will be surprised at the presence of Keith Kendrick, Jim Mageean and Tom and Barbara Brown, nor Jeff Warner representing the Americas, or even Roger Watson, but Sam Lee and Jackie Oates?

Short's repertoire happily mixed up words, tunes and titles so nothing is quite what you'd expect and the performances are equally individual. So Roger Watson's version of'Rio Grande' is positively melancholic, reflecting not the excitement of setting out for foreign parts but trepidation at the outset of a long and difficult voyage, while Warner's 'Won't You Go My Way' has a distinct blues tinge.

Although each shanty has its leader, this is very much an ensemble piece with both instruments and choruses provided by the other members of the company. Sometimes the result is a robust working song, sometimes a delicate expression of emotion. This is a super record.



Bright Young Folk

Liz Osman

The first of a series of three albums to be released, the shanties contained are all from the repertoire of John Short from Somerset, who gave Cecil Sharp nearly sixty shanties.

The shanties have been recorded by a variety of artists, including shanty veterans like Jim Mageean and younger stars Jackie Oates and Sam Lee.  This gives a real variety to the album, with both traditional takes on songs, and more innovative arrangements.

Both Jackie and Sam take the lead on two tracks, with widely different styles resulting.  Sam's more vibrato voice works really well on Mr Tapscott, a song better known to some in a different version as Plymouth Girls or New York Girls.

There are a lot of rousing harmonies for the listener to sink their teeth into, but shanties are not the easiest things to penetrate if you are not a fan.

That is where the final track, Tommy's Gone Away sung by Jackie Oates, really comes into its own as a bridge into shanties.  Jackie's gentle voice drifts across, lamenting the loss of Tommy to the sea.  It is refreshing at the end of an eighteen-track album to hear the woman's perspective.

It will be very interesting to hear what the other two instalments of Short's shanties will contain.  This album certainly seems to be the basis of a great grounding in seafaring music.  

Shantynet

This is volume one of a three album project based on the shanties given to Cecil Sharp by John Short (Yankee Jack).  My understanding is there were 60 songs given in Sharp's field note books, and all 60 will be represented when the project has been completed.

The first of the volumes in being reviewed here.  18 shanties are performed by various artists, quite pleasingly they are not assiduously traditional recordings, they have allowed the artists to add their own musicality which adds a certain personality to the record.

You will hear many of your favourites here, (Blackball Line, Rio Grande, etc.) but you will be interested to hear some fundamental lyric and tune changes.  The best example of this is 'Mr Tapscott' which is the tune of 'Can't You Dance the Polka' but is highly regionalised to the Tapscott line.

There are some real gems here, I've never heard Jackie Oates before � her voice is mesmerising.  She has an innocent, almost playful way of singing, her version of 'Tommy's Gone' is both stunning and inviting.  I would count this as the best, or second best version of this song I've heard (and as you will know there are dozens of recording of this popular shanty).  Her 'Fire Down Below' is a close second favourite from this project.

The other recording that grabs my attention is Barbara Brown's 'Cheerily Men' [sic] it seems that all the things that the group are attempting to do all come together very successfully here.  This version is similar to the one you know but it has an extra line.  Brown's singing is very rhythmical and is supported in the refrain by the men of the group who also sing with great rhythm, synchronicity and an impressive amount of strength which is highly attractive.  Repeat all of the above (with a little less success) for 'Bullgine Run'.

Really impressed with 'Shallow Brown' which is really a version of 'Yangtzee River' [sic] sung by Jim Mageean.  Very lively and interesting version of the song, well worth the purchase for this alone.

The rest of the record has a wistful feel of times past, which fits the material and spirit of the project well.  The best example of this is Jeff Warner's 'Will You Go My Way', which is comforting shanty sung as a ballad.

Even though all these songs are shanties you should expect this record to have a more 'ballady' feel.  I suggest that this will fit well with an older audience, but not exclusively so.  I would firstly recommend this album to those who enjoy well produced folk music (as stated above, the Oates' songs are well worth the purchase price).  I would also refer this to shanty lovers who [have] probably not heard the versions of these songs (I'm thinking of 'Cheerily Men') this record will stand proud in your shanty collection.  If you are a younger folk enthusiast who gets turned on by the rowdiness of some projects, you will not get your thirst satiated here.  Overall, I have really enjoyed listening to and review this album and look forward to the final two volumes.

Humphreywithhisflail.blogspot

�in the Watchet Town Museum I picked up the first volume in a projected 3-CD set of all John Short's songs.  Short Sharp Shanties Vol. 1 was put together under the auspices of Tom and Barbara Brown.  They have brought together an eclectic group of lead singers, each of whom was given free rein with the arrangement of their songs.  The result is a diverse collection that highlights the move from shanties as historical worksongs to their current presentation as social and performance pieces.  One of my big dislikes of shanty sessions is their lack of variety.  That is not the case here.  There are some more 'traditional' representations of shanties as worksongs, but Short's musicality is given full credit both in straightforward hauling shanties like Shallow Brown (and I warm more and more to Jim Mageean's singing) and in Carry Him to the Burying Ground.  Sam Lee's singing of the latter is assured and complex, but I do not find his reading of songs yet as compelling or convincing as, say, Jackie Oates's fine take on Fire! Fire! here.  Jeff Warner's banjo points to the breadth of Short's musical adventuring.  I'm a big fan of Jeff Warner, and particularly enjoyed his warm and delicate Won't You Go My Way?  (He touches on John Short's repertoire on his new solo album too.)  At its best, this CD points to the same tendency seen in Watchet: these songs are part of a man's life, and are part of how he lived that life.  In celebrating the songs, we have to celebrate the singer.

Stirrings

Raymond Greenoaken

It's always been a source of embarrassment that the English Folk Song Revival was founded by someone called Cecil.  No wonder non-folkies think we're a bunch of hullo-clouds-hullo-sky milksops.  If only he'd been called Steve.  Or Bruce.  Rocky, even.  But such is life.

 

Nomenclature aside, you have to give Cecil Sharp his due.  His song collecting activities in the early years of last century laid the foundations of the traditional repertoire we hold so dear.  And by a pretty coincidence, here are two CDs that celebrate his mighty labours.

Short Sharp Shanties (terrible title: lose five points and miss a turn) focuses on the unique body of sea shanties Sharp collected in 1914 from a 70-year-old shantyman from Watchet in Somerset called John Short, known to his shipmates as Yankee Jack.  Short went to sea at the age of nine, at the time the sea shantey [sic] itself was in its infancy.  He was practically the shantey in human form.  Sharp took nearly sixty of these songs from him, several in very early and rare versions, and few of them have found their way into the ditty bags of Revival singers, who have tended to draw largely on the Hugill collection for their maritime morceaux.

 

Maybe that will change with the arrival of this CD and its two companion volumes, due for release later in the year.  Together they represent Short's entire shantey repertoire, and as such they're an important and welcome resource.  Well done, WildGoose�you can have those five points back.

 

A cast of ten singers and musicians has been assembled for the purpose, and between them they bring a fair bit of variety to the performances.  Keith Kendrick, Jim McGeean [sic], Roger Watson and Tom Brown can bawl 'em out to the manner born, but Jeff Warner brings a smoother, more urbane quality and Sam Lee an engaging �I'm new here� callowness. Perhaps surprisingly, the crew includes two female singers.  Jackie Oates' wispy, girlish tones add a pleasing texture to the choruses and draw the secret tenderness out of Tommy's Gone; and Barbara Brown has a shantey-voice that would strip the paint from the bulwarks.  You also get various combinations of instruments�concertinas, melodeons, fiddles, guitar, banjo�as well as the more conventional voice-and-chorus arrangements.

 

Some of Short's versions were fragmentary, and these have been filled out from parallel sources; so everything here is satisfyingly singable.  As a listening experience, too, Short Sharp Shanties holds the attention throughout.  It's as bracing as a force 6 out of Finisterre, and the strange, yearning quality of some of these shanties is expertly captured too. Vols 2 and 3: bring 'em on...  

Shire Folk

Tony O�Neill

I have known for some time that Tom and Barbara Brown (aka: S&A Projects) have been working on a multi-faceted project to bring John Short of Watchet out of his dusty cupboard into the daylight of public attention and this CD is the first of three incorporating the shanties of 'Yankee Jack' noted down by Cecil Sharp in 1914.

The shanties are not intended to be 'authentic' (ie: for working a ship) which has allowed the eclectic mix of performers (too numerous to name here) the freedom to produce more relaxed versions of what are essentially, working songs, including subject sensitive and appropriate musicianship backing the tracks.

My first impression of the 18 tracks was a feeling of strangeness where the tunes were concerned for assuming that Cecil Sharp noted them accurately (and I do assume), it seems that they have evolved in small ways in the voices of those who have attempted to keep the songs alive in the years since his collecting.  CS's notations refreshingly take us back to the originals.  I should now say that the strangeness wore off quickly and I am looking forward to the second CD in the series.

In short (no pun intended), if you have any interest in seasongs and wish to learn more about the genre and of the fascinating life of the man from whom the shanties were collected then this is the CD for you!

The presentation is up to Doug Bailey's usual standard including a booklet with photographs of the performers (and John Short) and explanatory notes for each of the tracks.

Shreds and Patches

Chris (Yorkie) Bartram

This is the first of three CDs of shanties from John Short of Watchet in Somerset collected in 1914 by Cecil Sharp.  Short � Sharp � Shanties; get it?

Well, apart from the title, it's a terrific CD.  These are interestingly different versions of shanties collected from a man who had sung them countless times on board working ships.  They are full of the genuine rhythms and concerns of work-songs.  Various Artists, in this case, means Jim Mageean, Jeff Warner, Keith Kendrick, Tom and Barbara Brown, Jackie Oates, Roger Watson and Sam Lee with additional backing vocals by Brian Willoughby and Doug Bailey.  With a list like that you can be assured of a high standard of performance.  

In the notes they explain that they do not try to produce 'authentic' renditions � �we were in a recording studio, not working a ship�.  So several tracks are accompanied and several are sung as slow, lilting songs rather than the testosterone-driven bellowing employed by some shanty crews.  This may upset a few purists but, in my opinion, leads to a much more entertaining and listenable album.  Full details of the songs, the singers and more on John Short can be found at the umbermusic website.

The inclusion of female singers might also be frowned upon in some circles but, again in my opinion, they actually produce some of the best tracks!  Barbara Brown sings a very 'authentic' work-song version of Run, Let the Bulgine Run (not to be confused with Clear the Track and Let the Bulgine Run).  It's very difficult not to move in rhythm to her singing and would be ideal for any old-style pulling on ropes.  Jackie Oates, on the other hand, sings a lovely, delicate song called Tommy's Gone (a very distinct variant of Tommy's Gone to Hilo) with some beautiful instrumental and vocal accompaniment.  

However, in truth, I shouldn't pick out these tracks � most of the CD is of similar high standard.  Listen to Jim Mageean on superb versions of Stormalong John and the hauling shanty Shallow Brown (which is very different from the forebitter song), for example.  I don't think I've ever heard him sing better.  I look forward eagerly to the next two volumes of Short Sharp Shanties.  

fRoots

David Kidman

This attractively punningly-titled disc is the first of a projected series of three CDs which will record the repertoire of John Short (aka Yankee Jack) of Watchet, Somerset, who in 1914 gave Cecil Sharp nearly 60 shanties (many no doubt having been collected during his tenure as a shantyman). WildGoose's choice of artists for this repertoire is highly appropriate. Making the most of their individual lead roles (shared out at generally two apiece) are Jim Mageean, Keith Kendrick, Roger Watson, Tom & Barbara Brown, Jeff Warner, Jackie Dates and Sam Lee, with contributions from Brian Willoughby (guitar) and producer Doug Bailey, and chorus vocals and fine harmonies from all the singers involved. Fittingly, the whole enterprise is dedicated to the memory of Johnny Collins.

These performances are carried out in an authentic spirit-not authentic in the literal 'on-board-ship' sense but, instead in the adoption of guiding principles authentic to Short's practices, first in including the incorporation of all Short's texts and tunes (although sometimes needing to expand on the original, fragmentary sources) and second in enjoying the element of improvisation Short himself might have employed. A judicious degree of instrumentation adds variety to the totality of the project, without intruding on the important fact that by nature these shanties were, after all, work songs.

What all this means is that these renditions are invariably refreshingly different from the standard lusty shanty-crew outings we're accustomed to hearing - not just in textual matters but in character too. Roger Watson's treatment of Rio Grande, for instance, is supremely wistful, while Jackie Dates' take on the pumping shanty Fire Down Below is both unexpected and delightful (and her tender Tommy's Gone Away variant, which closes the disc, is truly a thing of beauty), and Sam's doleful moaning version of General Taylor takes its cues from the extraordinarily wilful melodic lines scrupulously notated by Sharp.

There's no lack of lustiness in these renditions, however. Just sample Tom's accounts of Ranzo Ray (The Bully Boat) and Hanging Johnny, and Barbara Brown's Cheerly Man and Let The Bulgine Run in particular. Jim turns in a definitive account of the not-often-heard Stormy Along, John and also offers us the intriguing multi-metred Shallow Brown, while Tom's Camptowi-style rendition of Blow, Boys, Blow (Banks Of Sacramento) comes complete with fiddle and banjo. My only quibble is that for some inexplicable reason a small number of the tracks receive a fadeout ending.

This is a stimulating release which should have a wide appeal outside shanty specialists; I look forward to volumes two and three.

Whats Afoot

Jacqueline Patten

With the current interest in shanties the timing of a project about the Watchet shantyman, John Short, is very opportune. John Short, also known as Yankee Jack, provided Cecil Sharp with nearly sixty shanties and it was these that were the impetus for the project. This album will be followed by a double CD: together the three CDs will comprise fifty seven shanties. The first includes eighteen.

Sharp wrote of John Short's rich, resonant and powerful voice, commenting on his delicate execution of "trills, turns and graces". As Yankee Jack spent over fifty years at sea and the rest by the seashore, the sound of the sea, the rhythm of the waves and the sea birds flying above, as well as the industry of his workmates, would have provided the backing for his singing. Wisely, no attempt has been made to make the setting authentic. In the sleeve notes the principles that guided the recording, the settings and the arrangements, are explained clearly. The recordings were, therefore, made in a studio rather in situ out of doors, and the performers give their own rendition and interpretation of the shanties, adding instrumentation where appropriate.

A number of John Short's shanties were included in the Novello songbooks widely used in the first half of the twentieth century, and people will be interested to hear which frequently sung shanties originate from Short. There are also many excellent ones that have not been sung much by revival singers. With the advent of these CDs, hopefully more of these shanties will become widely known.

The fine array of performers includes Tom & Barbara Brown, Doug Bailey, Keith Kendrick, Sam Lee, Jim Mageean, Jackie Oates, Jeff Warner, Roger Watson and Brian Willoughby, as well as vocals between them they play concertina, fiddle, banjo, melodeon, and guitar. There is great variety, both in arrangements and repertoire, which may not be what is perceived of shanties. The addition of two female singers adds another dimension which enhances rather than detracts.

Another fine album from Wildgoose,  I await the double CD with eager anticipation.

FolkWorld Germany

Holger Brandstaedt

The album Short Sharp Shanties fits seamlessly into the Cecil Sharp revival currently taking place in England and is the first of three planned releases dedicated to the repertoire of John Short, alias Yankee Jack. The sailor from Watchet (Somerset) contributed almost 60 shanties to Cecil Sharp's collection of English and American folk songs in 1914. These included songs such as Hanging Johnny, Blow Boys Blow and Shallow Brown which are still universally known today. I must confess that I kept putting off listening to this CD, though without good reason. Whilst some of the songs very much bear the mark of testosterone-fuelled deck scrubbers, the crew also includes Barbara Brown as well as the fabulous Jackie Oates. And, as in real life, having women on board changes the mood considerably. Whether it be Fire, Fire or Rio Grande, the use of female voices adds depth, and with Tommy's Gone Jackie Oates reaches the artistic high-point at the very end of the album. Short Sharp Shanties is a treasure trove for future generations of British folk musicians, both male and female, in which the island is certainly not lacking.

FolkWorld Germany

Holger Brandstaedt

The album Short Sharp Shanties fits seamlessly into the Cecil Sharp revival currently taking place in England and is the first of three planned releases dedicated to the repertoire of John Short, alias Yankee Jack. The sailor from Watchet (Somerset) contributed almost 60 shanties to Cecil Sharp's collection of English and American folk songs in 1914. These included songs such as Hanging Johnny, Blow Boys Blow and Shallow Brown which are still universally known today. I must confess that I kept putting off listening to this CD, though without good reason. Whilst some of the songs very much bear the mark of testosterone-fuelled deck scrubbers, the crew also includes Barbara Brown as well as the fabulous Jackie Oates. And, as in real life, having women on board changes the mood considerably. Whether it be Fire, Fire or Rio Grande, the use of female voices adds depth, and with Tommy's Gone Jackie Oates reaches the artistic high-point at the very end of the album. Short Sharp Shanties is a treasure trove for future generations of British folk musicians, both male and female, in which the island is certainly not lacking.

TRAD Magazine France

Claude Ribouillault

A tremendous, brilliantly executed project based on the 60 shanties collected by Cecil Sharp in 1914 from John Short, a singer and sailor born in 1839. There is no attempt here to recreate the atmosphere on board ship, but a desire to entrust the musicians and singers with a heartfelt, simple rendering. This is an exciting first volume. The team of performers, well-versed in this type of repertoire, alternating songs in minor keys, chorus songs and laments, give a lively, powerful rendition of each of the songs. The accordion, concertina and violin accompaniments are simplicity itself, yet warm and fresh. A veritable feast which makes you look forward with anticipation to the rest of the project. And to another mine of songs to discover and sing.

Folk Northwest

Derek Gifford

This CD is the first in a 3 volume series from a joint project by S & A Projects and Wild Goose. They feature the repertoire of John Short ('Yankee Jack') of Watchet, Somerset which was collected by Cecil Sharp in 1914. The recordings are dedicated to the memory of shanty singer Johnny Collins who died in 2009 and who was, naturally, to have been involved in the project.

Full details of the songs, the artistes and more information on John Short can be found at www.umbermusic.co.uk/SSSnotes.htm a look at which I fully recommend.

There are 18 songs featured on this album ably performed by some of our finest traditional artistes including Jim Mageean, Keith Kendrick, Jackie Oates, Roger Watson, Sam Lee, Brian Willoughby and Tom and Barbara Brown. The U.S. is aptly represented by Jeff Warner and even Doug Bailey manages to nip from behind the recording desk to join in the choruses!

Many of the songs are accompanied like the first track Sing Fare You Well appropriately being an outward bound song and one that is ably led by my old mate Keith Kendrick playing concertina. There are 'new' versions of many well known shanties such as Hanging Johnny, Rio Grande, Poor Old Man, Blow Boys Blow and Shallow Brown to name but a few. The latter by the way is the hauling version of the song not the forebitter lament.

The Bully Boat led by Tom Brown was a particularly interesting version of the better known Ranzo Ray although the chorus here is sung as 'Rando Ray'. Similarly the version of Stormalong John, led by Jim Mageean, is quite different from the more familiar ones. Sam Lee does a good job leading Short's unusual version of General Taylor which is entitled Carry Him to His Burying Ground.

I particularly liked the idea of getting Barbara Brown to do the lead on Cheerily Man which works really well even though there weren't many shantywomen (were there any at all I wonder?) in the days of sail. The newest song to me was a rare shanty called Won't You Go My Way? sung and accompanied by Jeff Warner.

This is a real treasure chest (pun intended!) of shanties that can only be enhanced by the production of the next two volumes which are planned for release in the Autumn of 2011. I can't wait to hear them.

Giff'

Mardles

Colin Cater

Tom and Barbara Brown of Combe Martin, North Devon have assembled a singing crew in collaboration with Doug and Sue Bailey of WildGoose to bring back to life the songs of John Short of Watchet, a.k.a. Yankee Jack, in a three volume CD set of which this is the first. John Short sailed before the mast in the mid C19, the glory years of sail and was collected in the early C20 as an old man both by Cecil Sharp and Richard Runciman Terry. Although Short's On Board the Rosabella is now well known, most of his versions have faded from memory as a result of work undertaken largely by MacColl/Lloyd and Stan Hu gill in the 1960s / 70s, a situation that hopefully this project will reverse. 'Short

Sharp Shanties' stands favourable comparison with Topic's 'Farewell Nancy' and other past compilations. Not many of the song versions have been aired anywhere recently and there are some rattling good performances. Keith Kendrick's languid concertina playing and singing (Sing Fare You Well, Poor Old Man particularly) mark him out as a master craftsman, while Jim Mageean's leathery old shellback Stormalong John is the work of a true Old Master. Tom Brown's Bully Boat (Ranzo) is a joy, while the banjo playing and gravelly singing of America's Jeff Warner (A Hundred Years on the Eastern Shore; Won't you go my way) will hopefully contribute more next time. Neither should anyone be sexist: Barbara Brown (Cheerly Man) is an excellent shantyman, while Jackie Oates does poignant beautifully closing the set with Tommy's Gone, ever more like Anne Briggs every time you hear her.

Although shanties / sea songs probably originated in the triangular trade between Britain, West Africa and the Americas (C17 19, they spread all over the world and reflect myriad musical traditions. Neither were they exclusively work songs as many originated in the pubs, bordellos and knocking shops on shore. This collection reflects this well ? also the fact that singing conventions have changed in England since the 1960s ? things are softer now and recreation is emphasised as much as work, a reality also recognised in the song interpretations offered here. Hopefully several festivals, both specialist shanty bashes and folk festivals will have the dosh to assemble this splendid crew to perform Short's shanties live, but if you like sea songs or dare I even say it, want to learn a new one, this CD is a more than worthwhile investment. Congratulations to all concerned in its making.

The Boat Shed

Gavin Atkins

I know it's a bit unconventional, but I sing in the car. I was once stopped by a couple of police officers worried I was crazed by drink or drugs, but I'm unrepentant about my technique for relieving the nearly unbearable tedium of driving: it keeps me cheerful and it's a darn sight better than dozing off.

For the past fortnight I've been singing wherever I go, and the reason for all the noise in recent days is that the CD Short Sharp Shanties: sea songs of a Watchet sailor is newly released and on my CD player.

It's the first of three volumes of sea songs collected from shantyman John Short by the noted folk song and dance collector Cecil Sharp. The songs are bloody marvellous, with strong anthemic choruses and often simple but highly effective tunes that have something in common with both playground songs and the best rock'n'roll classics.

They're also easy to memorise for your own use � say for rowing, singing in a session or pub, or just keeping yourself awake behind the wheel � because so much of a shanty is repeated.

Short's shanties are particularly interesting because they are often different versions from those collected later, for example by shantyman-turned-scholar Stan Hugill (buy his excellent books here). Some of them also seem to reveal just a little more of the African element of their origins.

The words of the verses and choruses cover all sorts of topics, from bragging fantasies about being missed by the girls of various ports and of home, excitement at going on a voyage somewhere exotic and strange, pride in the vessels, and the vicious bullying meted out by the captains and mates.

While the songs themselves are uniformly splendid, the performances on this first Short Sharp Shanties collection are extremely varied � with the result that listeners will inevitably like some more than others. This is because Tom and Barbara Brown, who led the project, and CD label boss Doug Bailey arranged for the songs to be led by a collection of very different of well-known singers, not all of them noted for singing this kind of material, and allowed them arrange and perform the material in the way they wished. So at different times the singers sound variously like hard-working sons of toil, carefully wrought works of scholarship and the dreamy laments wistful fair maidens.

That's how it's gone with shanties in the decades since the end of the commercial cargo-carrying sailing ships � around the maritime festivals, folk festivals and folk clubs they are often presented in all these ways and more.

The worksong type of approach adopted here by Tom and Barbara Brown, Keith Kendrick, Jeff Warner and a very piratey-sounding Jim Mageean must be the most appropriate, but it has to be said that the Jackie Oates's very un-blokey arrangement of Tommy's Gone is so pretty I can imagine it becoming a kind of folkie hit single.

Roger Watson's pleasant, very musical approach to these songs is also more tune and arrangement and less work. Sam Lee's brave and effective attempt to recreate Short's extraordinary wandering style of singing verses provides a fascinating insight � though it's difficult to see how the working party could know when the pull or push might be coming.

If only Sharp had used sound recording equipment instead of paper and pencil, we'd know so much more about how they used to sing this stuff � or at least we'd know how an elderly gentleman of 92 years performed them long after he left the rythmic toil involved in working capstans and pumps and hauling halliards.

In the meantime, I'm looking forward to volume 2 of this collection. I don't know when it's due for release, but when it comes out I plan to enjoy some more bawling, ranting and roaring behind the wheel. In the meantime, why not buy a copy of volume 1 and join me?

Tykes News

Jim Lawson

In the last issue of Tykes' we flagged up the near completion of Tom and Barbara Brown's project to bring the entire shanty repertoire of John Short of Watchet, as collected by Cecil Sharp in 1914, to the public.  This is the first of a series of three CDs, with the second and third to be release later this year.

This is, I have to say, an outstanding piece of work.  There is a danger that projects like this can end up with a rather dry academic feel, or are so esoteric that they are only of interest to the specialist as source material.  This CD falls into neither of these traps.  The ethos of this project was not to attempt 'authentic' rendering but to allow for variation in treatment, sometimes letting the song's roots show, sometimes just enjoying the improvisation Short himself might have employed, sometimes letting the instruments add variety to the totality of the project � but never obscuring the songs from being understandable, at base, as working shanties.  The lead singer was allowed to create a rendition that they felt comfortable with, with choruses provided by other of the project artists.  The result is that the singers and musicians have created an extraordinarily varied collection of tracks.

I think there is a tendency in the folk world to be a little dismissive of sea shanties, consigning them to a genre-ghetto, regarded as a rather unsophisticated subculture.  I hope that no such prejudice will prevent anyone from enjoying the massive variety of arrangement and delivery on this CD.  The list of artists alone � Tom and Barbara Brown, Keith Kendrick, Sam Lee, Jim Mageean, Jackie Oates, Jeff Warner, Roger Watson and Brian Willoughby � will give you some idea of how extensive is the talent which has been applied to what are an already very interesting selection of songs.  Interesting, because we know many of them in modern polished versions, and here we see the roots from which those versions grew.  Sometimes very deep roots indeed.

So I invite you to enjoy a mixture of the old and new � Jackie Oates singing 'Fire Down Below', Tome Brown singing 'The Bully Boat' or Sam Lee singing 'Mr Tapscott', and a multiplicity of other wonderful songs and performances � eighteen in all.  There are those who might consider me biased in my enthusiasm for sea songs, but I have to say that I can't imagine many of you who would not be delighted with this CD for its pure entertainment value, if nothing else.

Folk London

Peter Crabbe-Wyke

In 1914 Cecil Sharp met John �Yankee Jack� Short of Watchet in Somerset.  Mr Short was a former shantyman and gave Sharp over 60 shanties.  These were remembered from a period decades earlier than when Stan Hugill was learning his repertoire so are often different from the versions that are sung today.

Tom and Barbara Brown were instrumental in starting a project to record the entire set, there will be 2 more CDs following this, and also to produce a book about Mr Short's life.

This CD has eight different singers taking the shantyman role on the 18 tracks plus Doug Bailey and Brian Willoughby by helping on the choruses.  Keith Kendrick opens the CD with Sing Fare You Well a capstan shanty in waltz time which he accompanies on concertina.  This fades out at the end, as do several other tracks, which is a conceit that I find irritating although not enough to detract from the content.  This is followed by Roger Watson with The Blackball Line with the sort of roof raising delivery that we generally  regard as appropriate for shanties although that probably has more to do with the late great Johnny Collins than with historical accuracy.

Sam Lee and Jackie Oates make unlikely shantymen but Oates' gentle delivery of Fire Down Below brings out the underlying double entendre beautifully.

Jeff Warner accompanies himself on banjo on Won't You Go My Way with Jackie Oates on the chorus and puts it down for A Hundred Years on the Eastern Shore, a very fine halyard shanty.  

I did wonder if there had been some bowdlerisation of the texts as there are a couple of shanties where the better known versions include language no longer thought acceptable but they have been true to the texts as noted by Sharp although Mr Short only had fragments of some songs and these have been filled out from other sources.

The other singers on the recording are Tom and Barbara Brown of course and Jim Mageean whose performances are as excellent as you would expect.

If you expect every shanty to be belted out at full volume then you are going to be a little disappointed with this.  A good proportion go off in full bodied bar-room style but each singer gives his or her own interpretation which gives interesting variations and variety to the finished product.  This CD comes with a buy recommendation not just for the shanty specialist but for the general listener too.

EDS

Roy Palmer

John Short of Watchet in Somerset, who spent over fifty years at sea, died in 1933 at the age of 92.  In a series of session between April and September 1914, Cecil Sharp took down over fifty shanties from him, noting: 'Mr Short is an old salt who served on a sailing ship � more latterly half steam & half sail � all over the world, India China S. America etc.  He was in N. America at the time of the Civil War.'  According to Maud Karpeles, Sharp was impressed by 'John Short's rich, resonant and powerful voice which is �yet so flexible that he can execute trills, turns and graces with a delicacy and finish that would excite the envy of many a professional artist�'.

A number of the 'Short Sharp' shanties were among the Novello songbooks used in schools between the 1920s and the 1950s or 60s but they have featured little in the performances of subsequent revival singers.  Until now, that is, with the first of three CDs which set out systematically to explore John Short's repertoire.  Because he was born in 1830, this includes unusual and early versions, including rarities such as 'Tommy's Gone' and 'Won't You Go My Way?'

Jim Mageean, Jeff Warner, Keith Kendrick, Jackie Oates, Roger Watson, Sam Lee, Brian Willoughby, Tom Brown and Barbara Brown are involved here, the voices backed at times by their own concertina, fiddle, banjo, melodeon and Doug Bailey's guitar.  They make the point that 'We would not attempt �authentic� renditions � we were in a recording studio, not working a ship.'  As a result, the effect is one of emotion recollected in tranquillity from 'a long time ago', and it is both effective and at times moving.  Nevertheless, the listener is well aware that this is a collection of work songs.  Whose steps around the capstan would fail to be galvanised by the brisk rhythms of Keith Kendrick's 'Poor Old Man' or the sinuous melismata of Sam Lee's 'Carry Him to the Burying Ground'?  The whole CD, sometimes reflective, like Jackie Oates's 'Tommy's Gone', with its instrumental breaks, sometimes more wild, like Barbara Brown's 'Bulgine Run', is a fine piece of work which makes one look forward to its companion volumes.  

FolkNews Kernow

CWR

No don't cringe, these 18 tracks are instantly likeable. It's party-time here for a gang of great singers, Jim Mageean, Jeff Warner, Keith Kendrick, Jackie Oates, Roger Watson, Sam Lee, and more. What's more there's some backing music that's exactly right. Well done Doug of Wildgoose, this is super! AND it's only Volume 1 (two more to come). What a great fella John Short of Watchet must have been. Grab this one lads (and lassies) and remember Johnny Collings who was supposed to be on it. Best track: Cheerly Man by Barbara Brown.

Folk Roundabout

David Kidman

This attractively punningly-titled disc is the first of a projected series of three CDs which will record the repertoires of John Short (aka Yankee Jack) of Watchet, Somerset, who in 1914 gave Cecil Sharp nearly 60 shanties (many no doubt having been collected during his tenure as a shantyman).  WildGoose's choice of artists for this repertoire is highly appropriate � all making the most of their individual lead roles (shared out at generally two apiece) are Jim Mageean, Keith Kendrick, Roger Watson, Tom & Barbara Brown, Jeff Warner, Jackie Oates and Sam Lee, with contributions from Brian Willoughby (guitar) and producer Doug Bailey and chorus vocals and fine harmonies from all the singers involved.  Fittingly, the whole enterprise is dedicated to the memory of Johnny Collins.  These performances are carried out in an authentic spirit � not authentic in the literal �on-board-ship� sense, but instead in the adoption of guiding principles authentic to Short's practices, first in including the incorporation of all Short's texts and tunes (although sometimes needing to expand on the original, fragmentary sources) and second in enjoying the element of improvisation Short himself might have employed.  A judicious degree of instrumentation adds variety to the totality of the project, without intruding on the important fact that by nature these shanties were after all work songs.  What all this means is that these renditions are invariably refreshingly different from the standard lusty shanty-crew outings we're accustomed to hearing � not just in textual matters but in character too.  Roger Watson's treatment of Rio Grande, for instance, is supremely wistful, while Jackie Oates' take on the pumping shanty Fire Down Below is both unexpected and delightful (and her tender Tommy's Gone Away variant, which closes the disc, is truly a thing of beauty), and Sam's doleful moaning version of General Taylor takes its cues from the extraordinarily wilful melodic lines scrupulously notated by Sharp.  There's no lack of lustiness in these renditions, however: just sample Tom's accounts of Ranzo Ray (The Bully Boat) and Hanging Johnny, and Barbara Brown's Cheerly Man and Let The Bulgine Run in particular.  Jim turns in a definitive account of the not-often-heard Stormy Along, John and also offers us the intriguing multi-metred Shallow Brown, while Tom's Camptown-style rendition of Blow, Boys, Blow (Banks of Sacramento) comes complete with fiddle and banjo.  My only quibble is that for some inexplicable reason a small number of the tracks receive a fadeout ending.  This stimulating release should have a wide appeal outwith shanty specialists; I look forward to volumes two and three.  

R2

Dai Jeffries

Short refers to John Short, otherwise known as Yankee lack, a shantyman from Watchet, Somerset. Sharp is Cecil J who collected Yankee lack's repertoire of nearly sixty shanties in 1914.

The series of three CDs of which this is the first will present Short's entire repertoire but this is neither a dry, historical work nor a grog fuelled bellow. No one will be surprised at the presence of Keith Kendrick, Jim Mageean and Tom and Barbara Brown, nor Jeff Warner representing the Americas, or even Roger Watson, but Sam Lee and Jackie Oates?

Short's repertoire happily mixed up words, tunes and titles so nothing is quite what you'd expect and the performances are equally individual. So Roger Watson's version of'Rio Grande' is positively melancholic, reflecting not the excitement of setting out for foreign parts but trepidation at the outset of a long and difficult voyage, while Warner's 'Won't You Go My Way' has a distinct blues tinge.

Although each shanty has its leader, this is very much an ensemble piece with both instruments and choruses provided by the other members of the company. Sometimes the result is a robust working song, sometimes a delicate expression of emotion. This is a super record.



Bright Young Folk

Liz Osman

The first of a series of three albums to be released, the shanties contained are all from the repertoire of John Short from Somerset, who gave Cecil Sharp nearly sixty shanties.

The shanties have been recorded by a variety of artists, including shanty veterans like Jim Mageean and younger stars Jackie Oates and Sam Lee.  This gives a real variety to the album, with both traditional takes on songs, and more innovative arrangements.

Both Jackie and Sam take the lead on two tracks, with widely different styles resulting.  Sam's more vibrato voice works really well on Mr Tapscott, a song better known to some in a different version as Plymouth Girls or New York Girls.

There are a lot of rousing harmonies for the listener to sink their teeth into, but shanties are not the easiest things to penetrate if you are not a fan.

That is where the final track, Tommy's Gone Away sung by Jackie Oates, really comes into its own as a bridge into shanties.  Jackie's gentle voice drifts across, lamenting the loss of Tommy to the sea.  It is refreshing at the end of an eighteen-track album to hear the woman's perspective.

It will be very interesting to hear what the other two instalments of Short's shanties will contain.  This album certainly seems to be the basis of a great grounding in seafaring music.  

Shantynet

This is volume one of a three album project based on the shanties given to Cecil Sharp by John Short (Yankee Jack).  My understanding is there were 60 songs given in Sharp's field note books, and all 60 will be represented when the project has been completed.

The first of the volumes in being reviewed here.  18 shanties are performed by various artists, quite pleasingly they are not assiduously traditional recordings, they have allowed the artists to add their own musicality which adds a certain personality to the record.

You will hear many of your favourites here, (Blackball Line, Rio Grande, etc.) but you will be interested to hear some fundamental lyric and tune changes.  The best example of this is 'Mr Tapscott' which is the tune of 'Can't You Dance the Polka' but is highly regionalised to the Tapscott line.

There are some real gems here, I've never heard Jackie Oates before � her voice is mesmerising.  She has an innocent, almost playful way of singing, her version of 'Tommy's Gone' is both stunning and inviting.  I would count this as the best, or second best version of this song I've heard (and as you will know there are dozens of recording of this popular shanty).  Her 'Fire Down Below' is a close second favourite from this project.

The other recording that grabs my attention is Barbara Brown's 'Cheerily Men' [sic] it seems that all the things that the group are attempting to do all come together very successfully here.  This version is similar to the one you know but it has an extra line.  Brown's singing is very rhythmical and is supported in the refrain by the men of the group who also sing with great rhythm, synchronicity and an impressive amount of strength which is highly attractive.  Repeat all of the above (with a little less success) for 'Bullgine Run'.

Really impressed with 'Shallow Brown' which is really a version of 'Yangtzee River' [sic] sung by Jim Mageean.  Very lively and interesting version of the song, well worth the purchase for this alone.

The rest of the record has a wistful feel of times past, which fits the material and spirit of the project well.  The best example of this is Jeff Warner's 'Will You Go My Way', which is comforting shanty sung as a ballad.

Even though all these songs are shanties you should expect this record to have a more 'ballady' feel.  I suggest that this will fit well with an older audience, but not exclusively so.  I would firstly recommend this album to those who enjoy well produced folk music (as stated above, the Oates' songs are well worth the purchase price).  I would also refer this to shanty lovers who [have] probably not heard the versions of these songs (I'm thinking of 'Cheerily Men') this record will stand proud in your shanty collection.  If you are a younger folk enthusiast who gets turned on by the rowdiness of some projects, you will not get your thirst satiated here.  Overall, I have really enjoyed listening to and review this album and look forward to the final two volumes.

Humphreywithhisflail.blogspot

�in the Watchet Town Museum I picked up the first volume in a projected 3-CD set of all John Short's songs.  Short Sharp Shanties Vol. 1 was put together under the auspices of Tom and Barbara Brown.  They have brought together an eclectic group of lead singers, each of whom was given free rein with the arrangement of their songs.  The result is a diverse collection that highlights the move from shanties as historical worksongs to their current presentation as social and performance pieces.  One of my big dislikes of shanty sessions is their lack of variety.  That is not the case here.  There are some more 'traditional' representations of shanties as worksongs, but Short's musicality is given full credit both in straightforward hauling shanties like Shallow Brown (and I warm more and more to Jim Mageean's singing) and in Carry Him to the Burying Ground.  Sam Lee's singing of the latter is assured and complex, but I do not find his reading of songs yet as compelling or convincing as, say, Jackie Oates's fine take on Fire! Fire! here.  Jeff Warner's banjo points to the breadth of Short's musical adventuring.  I'm a big fan of Jeff Warner, and particularly enjoyed his warm and delicate Won't You Go My Way?  (He touches on John Short's repertoire on his new solo album too.)  At its best, this CD points to the same tendency seen in Watchet: these songs are part of a man's life, and are part of how he lived that life.  In celebrating the songs, we have to celebrate the singer.

Stirrings

Raymond Greenoaken

It's always been a source of embarrassment that the English Folk Song Revival was founded by someone called Cecil.  No wonder non-folkies think we're a bunch of hullo-clouds-hullo-sky milksops.  If only he'd been called Steve.  Or Bruce.  Rocky, even.  But such is life.

 

Nomenclature aside, you have to give Cecil Sharp his due.  His song collecting activities in the early years of last century laid the foundations of the traditional repertoire we hold so dear.  And by a pretty coincidence, here are two CDs that celebrate his mighty labours.

Short Sharp Shanties (terrible title: lose five points and miss a turn) focuses on the unique body of sea shanties Sharp collected in 1914 from a 70-year-old shantyman from Watchet in Somerset called John Short, known to his shipmates as Yankee Jack.  Short went to sea at the age of nine, at the time the sea shantey [sic] itself was in its infancy.  He was practically the shantey in human form.  Sharp took nearly sixty of these songs from him, several in very early and rare versions, and few of them have found their way into the ditty bags of Revival singers, who have tended to draw largely on the Hugill collection for their maritime morceaux.

 

Maybe that will change with the arrival of this CD and its two companion volumes, due for release later in the year.  Together they represent Short's entire shantey repertoire, and as such they're an important and welcome resource.  Well done, WildGoose�you can have those five points back.

 

A cast of ten singers and musicians has been assembled for the purpose, and between them they bring a fair bit of variety to the performances.  Keith Kendrick, Jim McGeean [sic], Roger Watson and Tom Brown can bawl 'em out to the manner born, but Jeff Warner brings a smoother, more urbane quality and Sam Lee an engaging �I'm new here� callowness. Perhaps surprisingly, the crew includes two female singers.  Jackie Oates' wispy, girlish tones add a pleasing texture to the choruses and draw the secret tenderness out of Tommy's Gone; and Barbara Brown has a shantey-voice that would strip the paint from the bulwarks.  You also get various combinations of instruments�concertinas, melodeons, fiddles, guitar, banjo�as well as the more conventional voice-and-chorus arrangements.

 

Some of Short's versions were fragmentary, and these have been filled out from parallel sources; so everything here is satisfyingly singable.  As a listening experience, too, Short Sharp Shanties holds the attention throughout.  It's as bracing as a force 6 out of Finisterre, and the strange, yearning quality of some of these shanties is expertly captured too. Vols 2 and 3: bring 'em on...  

Shire Folk

Tony O�Neill

I have known for some time that Tom and Barbara Brown (aka: S&A Projects) have been working on a multi-faceted project to bring John Short of Watchet out of his dusty cupboard into the daylight of public attention and this CD is the first of three incorporating the shanties of 'Yankee Jack' noted down by Cecil Sharp in 1914.

The shanties are not intended to be 'authentic' (ie: for working a ship) which has allowed the eclectic mix of performers (too numerous to name here) the freedom to produce more relaxed versions of what are essentially, working songs, including subject sensitive and appropriate musicianship backing the tracks.

My first impression of the 18 tracks was a feeling of strangeness where the tunes were concerned for assuming that Cecil Sharp noted them accurately (and I do assume), it seems that they have evolved in small ways in the voices of those who have attempted to keep the songs alive in the years since his collecting.  CS's notations refreshingly take us back to the originals.  I should now say that the strangeness wore off quickly and I am looking forward to the second CD in the series.

In short (no pun intended), if you have any interest in seasongs and wish to learn more about the genre and of the fascinating life of the man from whom the shanties were collected then this is the CD for you!

The presentation is up to Doug Bailey's usual standard including a booklet with photographs of the performers (and John Short) and explanatory notes for each of the tracks.

Shreds and Patches

Chris (Yorkie) Bartram

This is the first of three CDs of shanties from John Short of Watchet in Somerset collected in 1914 by Cecil Sharp.  Short � Sharp � Shanties; get it?

Well, apart from the title, it's a terrific CD.  These are interestingly different versions of shanties collected from a man who had sung them countless times on board working ships.  They are full of the genuine rhythms and concerns of work-songs.  Various Artists, in this case, means Jim Mageean, Jeff Warner, Keith Kendrick, Tom and Barbara Brown, Jackie Oates, Roger Watson and Sam Lee with additional backing vocals by Brian Willoughby and Doug Bailey.  With a list like that you can be assured of a high standard of performance.  

In the notes they explain that they do not try to produce 'authentic' renditions � �we were in a recording studio, not working a ship�.  So several tracks are accompanied and several are sung as slow, lilting songs rather than the testosterone-driven bellowing employed by some shanty crews.  This may upset a few purists but, in my opinion, leads to a much more entertaining and listenable album.  Full details of the songs, the singers and more on John Short can be found at the umbermusic website.

The inclusion of female singers might also be frowned upon in some circles but, again in my opinion, they actually produce some of the best tracks!  Barbara Brown sings a very 'authentic' work-song version of Run, Let the Bulgine Run (not to be confused with Clear the Track and Let the Bulgine Run).  It's very difficult not to move in rhythm to her singing and would be ideal for any old-style pulling on ropes.  Jackie Oates, on the other hand, sings a lovely, delicate song called Tommy's Gone (a very distinct variant of Tommy's Gone to Hilo) with some beautiful instrumental and vocal accompaniment.  

However, in truth, I shouldn't pick out these tracks � most of the CD is of similar high standard.  Listen to Jim Mageean on superb versions of Stormalong John and the hauling shanty Shallow Brown (which is very different from the forebitter song), for example.  I don't think I've ever heard him sing better.  I look forward eagerly to the next two volumes of Short Sharp Shanties.  

fRoots

David Kidman

This attractively punningly-titled disc is the first of a projected series of three CDs which will record the repertoire of John Short (aka Yankee Jack) of Watchet, Somerset, who in 1914 gave Cecil Sharp nearly 60 shanties (many no doubt having been collected during his tenure as a shantyman). WildGoose's choice of artists for this repertoire is highly appropriate. Making the most of their individual lead roles (shared out at generally two apiece) are Jim Mageean, Keith Kendrick, Roger Watson, Tom & Barbara Brown, Jeff Warner, Jackie Dates and Sam Lee, with contributions from Brian Willoughby (guitar) and producer Doug Bailey, and chorus vocals and fine harmonies from all the singers involved. Fittingly, the whole enterprise is dedicated to the memory of Johnny Collins.

These performances are carried out in an authentic spirit-not authentic in the literal 'on-board-ship' sense but, instead in the adoption of guiding principles authentic to Short's practices, first in including the incorporation of all Short's texts and tunes (although sometimes needing to expand on the original, fragmentary sources) and second in enjoying the element of improvisation Short himself might have employed. A judicious degree of instrumentation adds variety to the totality of the project, without intruding on the important fact that by nature these shanties were, after all, work songs.

What all this means is that these renditions are invariably refreshingly different from the standard lusty shanty-crew outings we're accustomed to hearing - not just in textual matters but in character too. Roger Watson's treatment of Rio Grande, for instance, is supremely wistful, while Jackie Dates' take on the pumping shanty Fire Down Below is both unexpected and delightful (and her tender Tommy's Gone Away variant, which closes the disc, is truly a thing of beauty), and Sam's doleful moaning version of General Taylor takes its cues from the extraordinarily wilful melodic lines scrupulously notated by Sharp.

There's no lack of lustiness in these renditions, however. Just sample Tom's accounts of Ranzo Ray (The Bully Boat) and Hanging Johnny, and Barbara Brown's Cheerly Man and Let The Bulgine Run in particular. Jim turns in a definitive account of the not-often-heard Stormy Along, John and also offers us the intriguing multi-metred Shallow Brown, while Tom's Camptowi-style rendition of Blow, Boys, Blow (Banks Of Sacramento) comes complete with fiddle and banjo. My only quibble is that for some inexplicable reason a small number of the tracks receive a fadeout ending.

This is a stimulating release which should have a wide appeal outside shanty specialists; I look forward to volumes two and three.

Whats Afoot

Jacqueline Patten

With the current interest in shanties the timing of a project about the Watchet shantyman, John Short, is very opportune. John Short, also known as Yankee Jack, provided Cecil Sharp with nearly sixty shanties and it was these that were the impetus for the project. This album will be followed by a double CD: together the three CDs will comprise fifty seven shanties. The first includes eighteen.

Sharp wrote of John Short's rich, resonant and powerful voice, commenting on his delicate execution of "trills, turns and graces". As Yankee Jack spent over fifty years at sea and the rest by the seashore, the sound of the sea, the rhythm of the waves and the sea birds flying above, as well as the industry of his workmates, would have provided the backing for his singing. Wisely, no attempt has been made to make the setting authentic. In the sleeve notes the principles that guided the recording, the settings and the arrangements, are explained clearly. The recordings were, therefore, made in a studio rather in situ out of doors, and the performers give their own rendition and interpretation of the shanties, adding instrumentation where appropriate.

A number of John Short's shanties were included in the Novello songbooks widely used in the first half of the twentieth century, and people will be interested to hear which frequently sung shanties originate from Short. There are also many excellent ones that have not been sung much by revival singers. With the advent of these CDs, hopefully more of these shanties will become widely known.

The fine array of performers includes Tom & Barbara Brown, Doug Bailey, Keith Kendrick, Sam Lee, Jim Mageean, Jackie Oates, Jeff Warner, Roger Watson and Brian Willoughby, as well as vocals between them they play concertina, fiddle, banjo, melodeon, and guitar. There is great variety, both in arrangements and repertoire, which may not be what is perceived of shanties. The addition of two female singers adds another dimension which enhances rather than detracts.

Another fine album from Wildgoose,  I await the double CD with eager anticipation.

FolkWorld Germany

Holger Brandstaedt

The album Short Sharp Shanties fits seamlessly into the Cecil Sharp revival currently taking place in England and is the first of three planned releases dedicated to the repertoire of John Short, alias Yankee Jack. The sailor from Watchet (Somerset) contributed almost 60 shanties to Cecil Sharp's collection of English and American folk songs in 1914. These included songs such as Hanging Johnny, Blow Boys Blow and Shallow Brown which are still universally known today. I must confess that I kept putting off listening to this CD, though without good reason. Whilst some of the songs very much bear the mark of testosterone-fuelled deck scrubbers, the crew also includes Barbara Brown as well as the fabulous Jackie Oates. And, as in real life, having women on board changes the mood considerably. Whether it be Fire, Fire or Rio Grande, the use of female voices adds depth, and with Tommy's Gone Jackie Oates reaches the artistic high-point at the very end of the album. Short Sharp Shanties is a treasure trove for future generations of British folk musicians, both male and female, in which the island is certainly not lacking.

FolkWorld Germany

Holger Brandstaedt

The album Short Sharp Shanties fits seamlessly into the Cecil Sharp revival currently taking place in England and is the first of three planned releases dedicated to the repertoire of John Short, alias Yankee Jack. The sailor from Watchet (Somerset) contributed almost 60 shanties to Cecil Sharp's collection of English and American folk songs in 1914. These included songs such as Hanging Johnny, Blow Boys Blow and Shallow Brown which are still universally known today. I must confess that I kept putting off listening to this CD, though without good reason. Whilst some of the songs very much bear the mark of testosterone-fuelled deck scrubbers, the crew also includes Barbara Brown as well as the fabulous Jackie Oates. And, as in real life, having women on board changes the mood considerably. Whether it be Fire, Fire or Rio Grande, the use of female voices adds depth, and with Tommy's Gone Jackie Oates reaches the artistic high-point at the very end of the album. Short Sharp Shanties is a treasure trove for future generations of British folk musicians, both male and female, in which the island is certainly not lacking.

TRAD Magazine France

Claude Ribouillault

A tremendous, brilliantly executed project based on the 60 shanties collected by Cecil Sharp in 1914 from John Short, a singer and sailor born in 1839. There is no attempt here to recreate the atmosphere on board ship, but a desire to entrust the musicians and singers with a heartfelt, simple rendering. This is an exciting first volume. The team of performers, well-versed in this type of repertoire, alternating songs in minor keys, chorus songs and laments, give a lively, powerful rendition of each of the songs. The accordion, concertina and violin accompaniments are simplicity itself, yet warm and fresh. A veritable feast which makes you look forward with anticipation to the rest of the project. And to another mine of songs to discover and sing.