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David Kidman of Fatea

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

This is the final excellent instalment of the ambitious three-disc project recording the repertoire of John Short of Watchet, who in 1914 gave Cecil Sharp nearly 60 shanties. Employing the same team as the previous two discs in the series, volume 3 is characterised by both the consistently gutsy, brilliantly spirited singing (from Jim Mageean, Keith Kendrick, Tom & Barbara Brown, Jeff Warner, Jackie Oates, Sam Lee and Roger Watson) and the intriguing version of often very familiar shanties, many of these being early and pre-Hugill variants.

This disc’s renditions of such shantyman’s staples as Bully In The Alley and Lowlands are nothing short (no pun intended) of revelatory, and the sense of discovery and commitment in these vital performances is palpable. An entirely justified modicum of crisply-recorded instrumentation is utilised on a number of tracks, including two of the three Sam Lee-led contributions (a delightfully Caribbean Rosabella and a jauntily syncopated Bull John Run), Jeff Warner’s He Back, She Back (Old Moke) and Jim Mageean’s Blow Away The Morning Dew; the remainder of the selections are done acappella, and with tremendous gusto and sense of enjoyment. I swear I’ve never heard these folks sing better – just feel the power and conviction of Barbara Brown’s Old Stormey, Jeff Warner’s Billy Riley, Keith Kendrick’s Dead Horse (to pick just three highlights). And those who might consider the dulcet tones of Jackie Oates less than appropriate for shanties should take a listen to her startlingly charismatic rendition of Hog-eyed Man!

The disc also appends a bonus track, Crossing the Bar (the only non-shanty that Sharp collected from Short); it’s sung here by Jeff Warner, who presumably had no choice but to adopt Rani Arbo’s wonderful setting (which, of course, wouldn’t have been around when Short “often used to sing it on board ship”). My comment about the illogical fadeout of a couple of tracks applies to this volume, otherwise I’ve no quibbles whatsoever with this CD.

Together the three discs form arguably the most important shanty-related releases of the past few years, and one with a good appeal to with shanty specialists too. And yes, once you’ve heard just on of the three discs you’ll definitely want to collect the entire set!