Dai Jeffries of R2
reviews Short Sharp Shanties Vol. 1 by John ShortShort 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.