Derek Gifford of Folk Northwest
reviews Short Sharp Shanties Vol. 3 by Collected from John ShortThis CD is the last one of the 3 volume series from a joint project by S & A Projects and Wild Goose Records. They feature the repertoire of John Short ('Yankee Jack') of Watchet, Somerset which comprised of nearly 60 shanties collected by Cecil Sharp in 1914.
Including the 'bonus track' there are 20 songs on this album ably performed again by the resident 'crew' who are Jim Mageean, Keith Kendrick, Jackie Oates, Roger Watson, Sam Lee, Brian Willoughby, Jeff Warner, Doug Bailey and Tom and Barbara Brown. The opening track is misleading because it begins with some natty guitar work, from Brian Willough, that doesn't sound like an accompaniment to a shanty at all! However, Sam Lee then vocalises with a very unusual and interesting version of 'Rosabella'.
This opening song leads the way to the other original versions of many well known shanties including 'Dead Horse (Poor Old Man)' bellowed out appropriately by Keith Kendrick, 'Heave Away, My Johnny (We're All Bound To Go)' liltingly sung by Barbara Brown followed by a version of my least favourite shanty 'Bully in the Alley' but even so very well rendered by Tom Brown. Jim Mageean is up next with 'Liza Lee (Yankee John Stormalong)' then comes Jackie Oates with 'Hog-eyed Man' which, considering her lighter voice, she sings with some gusto. Later on in the album Jackie sings 'Do Let Me Go', a version of 'Yeller Gals' which, I have to say, doesn't really work. I always feel that this shanty needs to be belted out and the quieter arrangement together with her lovely but sweeter voice doesn't do it for me.
Jeff Warner, as in the previous albums, brings a nice American dimension to the album especially with 'He Back, She Back (Old Moke Picking On A Banjo)' where he also demonstrates his excellent banjo playing. His accapella version of 'Lowlands (Dollar and a Half a Day)' is also a very interesting alternative to the better known version. Jeff also brings the album to a close with 'Crossing the Bar' but not until Roger Watson has had his say with another unusual version this time of 'Homeward Bound (Goodbye, Fare You Well)'.
This last point really sums up the whole purpose of the project which is to bring hitherto unknown versions of many of our best known shanties and sea songs to a wider public. In that respect the project has been a resounding success and I'm sure that every enthusiast of shanties and sea songs will eventually obtain the complete set of these inspirational albums.
As I have mentioned in my review of volume 1 in a previous issue of FolkNW full details of the songs, the artistes and more information on John Short can be found at www.umbermusic.co.uk/SSSnotes.htm . Also, Short Sharp Shanties with most of the 'crew' will be on tour in October this year so look out for it.