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THE SHANTY CREW "Where Am I To Go? Sea Shanties and Sailor Songs" Brewhouse Music BHCD9601

The Shanty Crew were one of the first groups established to present shanties in an authentic setting. There are six current members and, whilst the membership has changed over the years, Chris Roche has remained a constant source of enthusiasm. The group have already released two collections of shanties on cassette, notable not only for their singing but also for the detailed booklets that accompanied them. This new recording comes on CD, together with an absorbing fifty-two page booklet giving details of the songs, the sources and much more.

The group have not repeated any of their old recordings. Although the number of songs related to sailing ships must be finite, they have still found sufficient to fill this CD with variety and interest. A great debt, freely acknowledged, is owed to Stan Hugill, who advised on the singing of many of them. Often a shanty will start with a shout from a seaman, and the group try to emphasise the moments when the sailors would all heave together, the very reason for the shanty.

Each member of the group takes his turn as shantyman, while the remainder provide an eager chorus, singing in unison. The choruses are absolutely solid, but once or twice the leader wavers - I suppose that only adds to the authenticity. Familiar shanties include "General Taylor", "Spanish Ladies" and "John Kanaka", but "Do Let Me Alone", Susan is recorded here for the very first time. Rita Cherriman, their female member, leads just one shanty, a soulful Shallow Brown.

Harmonies are permitted in the sea songs, which include Frankie's Trade, one of Kipling's verses set to music by Peter Bellamy, and Rolling Coal, set to a tune composed by Chris Roche himself. A verse read over the sound of waves breaking and gulls crying introduces the recording, and another closes it. In between, there is a great deal to both learn and enjoy about the pleasures and hardships of the sailor's life.

Henry Peacock

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This album was reviewed in Issue 18 of The Living Tradition magazine.