20 March 2011 5 Comments

SHANTY NEWS: Epic Triple Shanty CD Set to be Released

SHANTY NEWS: Epic Triple Shanty CD Set to be Released

Believe it or not there is actually some breaking shanty news! Shantynet.com has received a press release regarding a box set of traditional shanties to be released from S&A Projects and distributed through Wild Goose Records. Press release is copied below:



A recording project, involving nine professional performers, that has been eighteen months in the making, will culminate in the launch of the first of three CDs at Watchet and Chippenham at the end of May. The Short Sharp Shanties records the entire repertoire of John Short, of Watchet in Somerset, which was collected by the great folk song authority Cecil Sharp – thus the name of the project.


John Short, also known locally as ‘Yankee Jack’, was a deep water sailor who sang nearly sixty shanties to Sharp in 1914, forty-seven of which he then published in his book English Folk Chanteys. Some of the sixty therefore are familiar versions, others rarer, and the rest have remained unsung – until now. Some of the versions are from a very early period in the life of shanty-singing, and all have been taken directly from Sharp’s manuscripts, rather than from the printed page, thereby keeping the idiosyncrasies that are characteristic of Short’s singing.


It was over thirty years ago, while they were researching Exmoor and North Devon traditional songs and music, that Tom and Barbara Brown found the shanty Rosabella tucked away in Sharp’s manuscripts in the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library at Cecil Sharp House in London. They passed it on to shanty singers Johnny Collins and Jim Mageean, and it became more popular in the 1980s than it ever had been at sea back in the 1880s.


Ever since then, they have wanted to use the talents of a variety of modern performers to record all of John Short’s shanties, and Tom and Barbara, along with Jim Mageean, Keith Kendrick, Sam Lee, Jackie Oates, Roger Watson, Brian Willoughby, and American Jeff Warner, have now achieved that ambition through Doug Bailey of WildGoose Records, and funding from a number of sources. Dr. Tom Brown said, “It gives us great pleasure that Jim Mageean, who has done so much to popularise shanties, and who first passed on Rosabella, is part of the crew for this project. At the same time, we are very sad that Johnny Collins, who died two years ago, was unable to contribute – he had been looking forward to it, and the CDs are dedicated to his memory. Being able to draw together such a talented bunch of performers, who so strongly supported our idea, has been a delight for us.”


The shanties encompass an extraordinary range and variety in themselves, as well as in the different instruments and styles that the nine performers bring to the project. “We have not tried to be ‘authentic’ – some of the shanties are close to the way they would have been rendered as work songs, but in others we have let the musical and instrumental talents of the performers have free rein.” Within the three CDs can be found everything from wild chants from the cotton ports of the Southern United States to texts of classic English folk songs; from wistful contemplative laments to outright bawdry; a capella items, frailing banjos, lyrical fiddles, strident concertinas and a host of other settings making for an extremely varied set of CDs.


Following the launches on the evening of Tuesday, 24th May at the Esplanade Club at Watchet, and on the Saturday afternoon of Chippenham Folk Festival, the remaining CDs will be released as a double album later in the year. They will be available direct from WildGoose Records at www.wildgoose.co.uk or from S&A Projects at www.umbermusic.co.uk, or from the individual performers at their live appearances. More information on the project and the shanties themselves can be found at www.umbermusic.co.uk, and click on ‘Short Sharp Shanties’ in the menu. For any further information, contact S&A Projects. If you would usually receive a review copy, this will be sent to you in due course.


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