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Derek Gifford of Folk Northwest

reviews Short Sharp Shanties Vol. 1 by John Short

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 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.