Bob Bignell of Folk Monthly
reviews Short Sharp Shanties Vol. 3 by Collected from John ShortLet me say from the outset that I did not think I would like this CD. I have nothing against shanties or sea songs, in fact they were part of my initial introduction to live folk music, but I prefer mine to be in a live singing environment, led by an accomplished shanty master (if that’s what they’re called, although their title doesn’t really matter) among a group of like minded souls, preferably in licensed premises and accompanied by a foaming pint or three that’s not too much to ask, is it? Sessions in the Falcon in Bromyard with Johnny Collins and Jim Mageean back in the 70s are part of my fondest memories in a life full of fond memories but on a CD performed in a recording studio environment... well it don’t seem right, do it?
I was, however, pleasantly surprised and I am sure you will be too. So surprised in fact that I have a hankering to go out and buy the previous two volumes, especially after spending time reading both the excellent sleeve notes and the accompanying website www.umbermusic.co.uk/SSSnotes.htm The project, organised by Tom and Barbara Brown, seeks to bring together the singing of Yankee Jack, John Short of Watchet in Somerset as collected by Cecil Sharp. The project organisers, acknowledging that the songs are not being performed in their natural environment, have allowed a certain amount of improvisation and, where only a couple of verses of a song were included in Sharp’s notes, have used other versions of the same song to “pad out” the Short/Sharp version.
They have also permitted instruments to be used by the performers but not, as in other recordings I have heard of shanties and sea songs, (Bellowhead's version of New York Girls comes to mind) allowed the instruments to take anything away from the fact that these were work songs. I am sure some of my shanty aficionado friends are going to tell me that New York Girls is not a work song but, hey, I use it mainly to make a point. So ...lighten up!
Speaking of performers, there are some fine examples on the CD ....the aforementioned Tom and Barbara Brown and Jim Mageean as well as Jeff Warner, Keith Kendrick, Jackie Oates, Roger Watson, Sam Lee, Brian Willoughby and Doug Bailey. I don't feel the need to review individual tracks here, save to say that the songs are all well known and their performance, by accomplished artists, is exceptional.
In all, an excellent album to which, as I say, I shall be adding the two previous volumes and I thoroughly recommend that you do the same. I might also fork out for the forthcoming book and try to take in the short live tour which I understand will be coming up in October of this year.