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Carol Henderson Begg of Whats Afoot

reviews Short Sharp Shanties Vol. 3 by Collected from John Short

I would encourage you to listen to this, the final volume of this 3 album project based on the shanties remembered by John Short, also known as Yankee Jack. John hailed from Watchet on the North Somerset Coast. He was born in 1839 and first went to sea with his father when he was nine years old, his sailing career spanning over fifty years. He sailed all round the world as a shanty man, in his younger days working on deep water ships. He died in 1933 at the grand old age of 92. In 1914 John was visited by Cecil Sharp and gave him nearly sixty shanties, several in early rare versions, of which these are the final twenty.

Shanties tend to be repetitive out of necessity as they were working songs, but there is enough variety here to keep the listener interested and the imagination alive. Rosabella makes for a good introduction, the lead singers set their own interpretations, and the chorus singers introduce some fine harmonies when appropriate. No self respecting sailing ship would have entertained a woman shanty singer on board, but the renditions by Barbara Brown and Jackie Oates add to the enjoyment of this project, and I love the idea of Jackie being chosen to sing Hog eyed Man. Musically of course, Shanties, by their very nature, were normally unaccompanied work songs so the instrumentation in these recordings needed to add variety for the listener but not detract from this fact. I enjoyed hearing the concertina, violin, banjo or guitar adding feeling to the song, enhancing but not overwhelming the words.

The final song, Crossing the Bar, is not a shanty, but a favourite folk song of John Short, who used to sing it on board ship. It adds a different dimension to the collection and is a fitting finale to this final volume, that definitely grows on you'.