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Tony O’Neill of Shire Folk

reviews Short Sharp Shanties Vol. 1 by John Short

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.