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Ivan North of Folk London

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

This is the last of three CDs which recorded the repertoire of John Short (Yankee Jack) of Watchet, Somerset, who gave Cecil Sharp nearly sixty shanties. He was born 1839, went to sea with his father when he was nine, went deep sea at eighteen, married and retired from the deep water trade in his mid thirties. He died in 1933. Artists on this CD are Sam Lee, Keith Kendrick, Barbara Brown, Tom Brown, Jim Mageean, Jackie Oates, Jeff Warner, and Roger Watson.

There are twenty tracks and there were certain principles which guided the recordings. All John Short's text and tunes have been included in the recordings. Fragments have been expanded from collected sources. Improvisation and instruments have been allowed and the lead singer was allowed discretion in the rendition. Shanties are normally performed unaccompanied with a lead singer and strong, (male) chorus. Although many of the tracks are in this format, some are recorded as songs with instrumental accompaniment and others have a female lead. The end result is that it leads to variety of presentation. Most of the shanties are well known, but there are also several unusual versions.

Sam Lee treats Rosabella as a song and provides guitar backing. Keith Kendrick gets to bellow out Dead Horse with male chorus, but gives Paddy on the Railway in six eight time, jogging along with concertina and fiddle accompaniment. Tom Brown has only one shanty a `standard' version of Bully in the Alley. Barbara Brown does Old Stormey and Ranzo in the same way. She is more adventurous with Heave Away, My Johnny using this as a chorus to the song The Banks of the Sweet Dundee with concertina and mandolin accompaniment. Jackie Oates gives us The Hogs Eye Man with male chorus and sings Yeller Girls breathily, with banjo accompaniment. Jeff Warner's Lowlands Away is an unusual version, unaccompanied. Roger Watson gives a lively version of Homeward Bound together with chorus and lead melodeon.

This way of presentation gives more variety and leads to a more entertaining CD, but presumably would not suit the purist. I have not seen the two other CDs in the trilogy so do not know their contents, but this CD stands by itself.