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JOLLY JACK & FRIENDS "Rolling Down to Old Maui" Fellside FECD140

It's alleged the British have the sea in their blood and in some cases, Spike Milligan would have it, you can see where it gets in! Nautical songs and shanties are not everyone's idea of ambient listening but then they're not meant to be - here by definition in the shanty at least, is the archetypal work song, so with this CD are we talking specialist and limited market appeal?

Well as Paul Adams' details in the introductory notes to his collation of largely previously released Fellside tracks, whilst most of the material comes from the great days of sail, there is a growing body of songs by modern writers who have the sea as their creative impulse. The popularity of sea-related workshops, specialised Maritime Festivals and the fact that UK shanty groups can fill stadia on a U2 scale in many European countries are all testimony to the briny's appeal.

Long defunct North West-based groups such as the excellent Jolly Jack, the hmm-m OK Wassailers and Woodbine Lizzie contribute to the twenty-two tracks augmented by solo singers the like of Richard Grainger, Steve Turner and Linda Adams. Shanties, whaling songs, forebitters, parlour and even Child ballads all feature in what is a varied and variable collection. Jolly Jack deservedly have the lion's share of the songs - ten in all from their excellent 1983 album from which this compilation takes its title.

Time has been kind to their "Davy Lowston", "Shallow Brown" et al, but less so to Barry Skinner's "Benbow" and Jill & Bernard Blackwell with "Paddy Maloney" which with other of the contributions here display a certain indifference. Overall though a combination of melancholia and attack combine to produce a worthwhile and rewarding re-release of bracing salt airs. I must go down to the sea again!.

Clive Pownceby

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This album was reviewed in Issue 33 of The Living Tradition magazine.