Lowlands Low - A traditional spirited halyard shanty. According to Hugill, this song was learned from Old Smith from the island of Tobago in the West Indies in the 1930's. Halyard shanties are characterized by their brisk pace, facilitating the setting and re-setting of sails in a timely fashion. Led by Norris with full chorus.
John Cherokee - A traditional halyard shanty. Here John Cherokee is both a Native American from New Brunswick and a slave from Alabama, an unlikely combination at best. This shanty was first collected by Joanna Colcord. This version is in the style of Brian Chadbourne, a former member of Roll & Go. Led by Brett with full chorus.
Plains of Mexico - A traditional pump/capstan shanty. According to Hugill, there are many versions of this song, some with unhistorical references to the Mexican-American War, some celebrating the exploits of such mythical sailor heroes as John Stormalong, some just wistful for another run ashore in Mexico. Our choice is the latter. Led by Eli with back-up vocals on the verse and chorus by Jennifer.
Bully in the Alley - A traditional West Indies halyard/capstan shanty. We first heard Jeff Warner and Jeff Davis sing a slower version of this song at the Lunenburg Folk Harbour Festival in Nova Scotia. Then we became enamored with a faster Caribbean style version arranged by Victory Sings at Sea, a Seattle-based collective. Charlie has slightly modified some of the lyrics and borrowed the final verse from Malvina Reynolds' version of Sally Don't You Grieve. We do know where there is one Shin-bone Alley on the map - Wiscasset, Maine. But there was probably one in every sailortown from Liverpool to Hong Kong. The chorus phrase "So help me, Bob!" may be a slang expression for "So help me, God!" common around the London docks according to Tom Kelly, a member of the British sea music group The Shanty Crew. Led by Charlie with full chorus; bones played by Brett.
Roll Down - A contemporary capstan shanty. Words and music are by Peter Bellamy, ©1970, used with permission, from his folk opera The Transports. In this song the shantyman is poking fun at the "transports," the British convicts, who are being shipped on a long voyage to Australia in the early 1800's for years of hard labor. Norris has dropped a couple of the original verses, following the example of James Keelaghan on his recording Timelines, ©1992, from whom we first heard this fine song. Led by Norris with full chorus.
Yangtse River Shanty - A newer capstan shanty in the traditional style. Originally composed by Hamish Maclaren for his sailor's folk opera Sailor with Banjo in 1930 and extensively reworked by Charlie Ipcar in 1992. No tune is printed in Maclaren's book; Charlie has made good use of the traditional shanty tunes Tommy's Gone to Hilo in the verse and Congo River in the chorus. Led by Dick with full chorus; backed up with guitar by Eli and banjo by Charlie.
Sally Free and Easy - Sailor's lament for unfaithful love, composed by ex-Royal Navy submariner Cyril Tawney ©1968, used with permission. Led by Brett.
Spring Lightning and Thunder - A haunting traditional style sea ballad. The theme of the drowned lover returning as a ghost to his love is a recurring one in nautical songs. This version is from an old tape recorded by friends in the early 1980's entitled Chesapeake Born. This song was originally composed by commercial fisherman Mark Wisner back in the 1970's, used with permission. Wisner says: "…its roots are from fishermen on the working Maryland skipjacks of Chesapeake Bay, and flavored by folk music in the area around Machias, Maine." The song has since been added to the repertoire of traditional singers in the Chesapeake Bay area as well as traditional style singers elsewhere in this country. Led by Norris and Eli; backed up with guitar by Eli and wash-tub bass by Norris.
Shallow Brown - This lovely old West Indies shanty is a lament for a lost love who, depending on the version, has died, run away, or been sold to another slaveowner. According to Stan Hugill "shallow" may actually be "challo," a West Indian word of Carib extraction that means a half-caste. Caven first heard this version from someone singing at a Rockport Folk Festival in Maine back in the 1980's. Led by Jennifer with back-up vocals by Eli.
Nova Scotia Farewell - A traditional sea ballad. First collected by folklorist Helen Creighton in 1933, this song was popularized by many Canadian folk singers in the 1960's, and soon became the unofficial anthem of Nova Scotia. The original poem The Soldier's Adieu, from which this song can be traced, was composed by Scottish poet Robert Tannahill (1774-1810). Led by Norris and Eli, with full chorus; backed up with guitar by Eli and wash-tub bass by Norris.
Blood-Red Roses - A traditional halyard shanty. According to Hugill, "This was a real 'Cape Horner,' very popular in Liverpool ships." Once again, Harding of Barbados was Hugill's source. What a fine wild song, clearly one that could be heard above a raging gale. Led by Norris with backup vocals by Brett.
Fire, Maringo - A traditional cotton stowing shanty "Screwing cotton" describes the process by which bales of cotton were compressed by giant jack-screws for more efficient storage. The shanty was included in Charles Nordhoff's The Merchant Vessel: A Sailor Boy's Voyages, 1884. Charlie first heard this song at a concert by Forebitter and then rearranged and slightly modified the verses; their rendition may be found on the Forebitter Unmooring CD, ©1995 Mystic Seaport Museum. The traditional tune had been lost; for the current tune we thank Royston Wood of the British folk revival group Young Tradition, 1967. Led by Charlie with full chorus.
The Pump Shanty - This newer pump shanty was composed by Tony Goodenough, ©1989 Shanty Crew Publishing, used with permission. Brett's traditional sounding version is adapted from the singing of William Pint and Felicia Dale at a Mystic Sea Music Festival. Pumping out the ship was one of those long monotonous jobs that a good shanty like this could make more pleasant. Led by Brett with full chorus.
Dramamine - A fine contemporary nautical song composed by Talitha MacKenzie with assistance from shipmate Dave Bell, ©1980 Talitha MacKenzie Music Publishing, used with permission. It's the kind of song that crews aboard Maine's summer windjammer fleet might sing to themselves after their paying guests have gone ashore. Among our younger listeners, it's a clear favorite. The tune is from the traditional homeward bound shanty Whup, Jamboree. Led by Charlie with full chorus.
The Saltpetre Shanty - This traditional capstan shanty is from Hugill's collection, as adapted by William Pint and Felicia Dale on their Port of Dreams recording. The references to Chile have to do with delivering general cargo there from England, the threat of being shanghaied while ashore and then being shipped out on a homeward bound ship with a cargo of guano from the off-shore islands. Led by Dick with full chorus.
The Maid on the Shore - A traditional ballad. The version sung is close to that arranged by Stan Rogers in 1976 on Fogarty's Cove; Rogers adapted his version from one from the Peacock Collection of Newfoundland Folk Songs. We can't help but admire the intrepid maid who gets the best of the bold captain and his jolly ship's crew. Led by Brett and Eli, with Eli on guitar and Charlie on banjo.
John Kanaka - A traditional halyard shanty. The chorus and refrain of this song were likely composed by sailors in the Pacific whaling fleet, whose captains often recruited "Kanakas," the Polynesian people of the Hawaiian Islands, to flesh out their crews. The song itself spread out across the seas, being collected by Hugill from a favorite source, Harding of Barbados. Led by Norris with full chorus.
One More Day - A traditional capstan or pump shanty. According to Hugill, this song was typically the last shanty sung as a ship was nearing port, one last opportunity to vent feelings, and was more often sung by American crews rather than British ones. Sea music collector Joanna Colcord considered it to be of American Negro origin. Led by Dick with full chorus.
Back to the Lyrics and Samples Page
Back to the Roll & Go Home Page