Tag Archives: sea shanties

From sea shanties to glam rock: five music acts who have had a good lockdown

1. The Longest Johns

I’ve been following Bristol-based acapella group The Longest Johns since they sent me their first album to review back in 2016. Following the tiktok sea shanty viral sensation that is ‘Wellerman’, however, they now find themselves in the Top 40 – with a lovely rather dumbstruck announcement on their Facebook page giving their reaction as follows: “BY POSEIDONS BEARD! It’s only gone top 40! We did it everybody, thank-you to all our families, the mod’s and the fantastic discord community, Thank-you to Anna for singing it with us and thank-you to EVERYONE who bought Wellerman and got a (Can’t believe i’m typing this) SEA SHANTY IN THE CHARTS. Ohhhh!!”

Read album review here

2. Slade

2020 was looking like a terrible year for glam veterans, Slade. Guitarist Dave Hill sacked drummer Don Powell from the continuing (ie: post- Jim and Noddy) version of the band. Bass-player Jim Lea had his prized guitar stolen and Noddy Holder exchanged a few sharp words about his former song-writing partner Jim in press interviews. All that was put to one side, however, as all four original members expressed their joy at their greatest hits compilation Cum On Feel The Hitz going straight in at No. 8 in the UK album charts back in October. This was the band’s highest ranking in the UK album charts since Slade In Flame was released back in 1974!

Read more here

3. AC/DC

Only a few short years ago the wheels well and truly seemed to be finally coming off the AC/DC machine. Rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young had tragically passed away, drummer Phil Rudd was sentenced to home detention after an unedifying case involving drugs and threatening behaviour, vocalist Brian Johnson ended up being replaced by Axl Rose following major hearing problems and bass-player Cliff Williams saw the writing on the wall and decided he, too, had had enough. However, with Stevie Young replacing his late uncle, Malcolm, the classic post-Bon Scott AC/DC line-up (or as near as humanly possible to it anyway) was resurrected and a brand new album Power Up ended up reaching No. 1 in twenty-one countries.

Read album review here

4. John Rossall – ex Glitter Band

Glitter Band founder member, John Rossall, released a wonderfully menacing twenty-first century reboot of classic 70s glam rock with his The Last Glam In Town album. Released back in October last year, it picked up favourable reviews everywhere. All tribal beats, honking brass, fuzzed-up guitar, sing-along choruses and enough handclaps and chants of ‘Hey’ to last you a lifetime, The Last Glam In Town is a modern masterpiece of the genre.  “It’s like I’ve written them myself almost!” he told me when I interviewed him late last year. “It’s a surprise. The reviews everywhere – it’s been beyond my wildest dreams really.”

Read full interview here

5. Tim Burgess of the Charlatans

While there has been no big Charlatans comeback (their most recent album was back in 2017), Tim’s Twitter Listening Parties have been one of the bright spots throughout the pandemic. The idea was a simple one: an album and a time would be chosen and fans would converge on social media to exchange their memories, reactions and appreciation of said album. Soon there was a queue of artists eager to get involved and, for me, one of the highlights was when they featured the album by Heavy Load, a band which was composed of people with and without learning disabilities, of which my current boss was the former bass-player. You can find out more about Heavy Load, the award-winning film of the same name that was made about them and the charity that they inspired here.

Tim Burgess // Piknik i Parken // The Charlatans // 2019-06-13 18:19:07 // Grünerløkka, Oslo, Photo credit: Tore Sætre / Wikimedia

Folk: album review – The Longest Johns ‘Cures What Ails Ya’

If no-one has done more than Port Isaac’s Fisherman’s Friends to repopularise sea shanties in recent years, then surely no-one has done more than Bristol’s Longest Johns to give them an alt-folk makeover, pull them into the twenty-first century and make them cool.

Cures What Ails Ya is the Longest Johns’ third album. Building on the impact of the first two, Written in Salt released in 2016 and Between Wind and Water released in 2018, the Longest Johns began attracting a dedicated online following that consisted of a quirky but thoroughly modern combination of folk enthusiasts and internet gamers. Collaborating with the creators of suitably-themed games like ‘Sea of Thieves’ the group’s online content has helped them garner over 70.000 YouTube subscribers and upwards of 7.3 million streams by the time this, their third album, is released.

But what of the music? I just love it! An upbeat album as teeming with feel-good vibes and irreverent takes as it is with maritime hardship and folk tradition, Cures What Ails Ya is just beautifully held together with the rich harmonising voices of the four members and, in places, some suitably lovely accompanying instrumentation. Song-wise, there’s a real mix – from standards like ‘Bonny Ship The Diamond’ and ‘Oak and Ash and Thorn’ to new original songs like the wryly tongue-in-cheek ‘Hoist Up The Thing’ and ‘The Last Bristolian Pirate’ which manages to name-check Tescos.

A brilliant album from the men who made shanties sexy – buy it!

Available on digital formats, CD and vinyl Cures What Ails Ya’ is released on 10th June 2020 with a special online live launch party

http://www.thelongestjohns.com

Related reviews:

Album review – The Longest Johns ‘Written In Salt’

Fisherman’s Friends – Live In Hastings

Live review: Fisherman’s Friends at St Mary in the Castle, Hastings 12/11/17

“I quite like hearing the odd sea shanty – but I’m not sure I could manage a whole evening of it,” announces a long-time friend and my gig partner for the evening, seconds before Fisherman’s Friends are about to take the stage. Ah… hmmm. Perhaps I should have explained a little more when I first suggested going to see Fisherman’s Friends. I hope she’s not going to be too disappointed, I think to myself.

For the uninitiated, the Cornish singing group from Port Isaac have been making a huge impact in recent years singing traditional songs of the sea that have handed down to them over generations. They became the first traditional folk act to land a UK top ten album. Unsurprisingly, the group are clearly going to receive an enthusiastic welcome in a traditional fishing town like Hastings.

While there are enthusiastically-sung shanties galore tonight, it soon becomes clear that, wonderful though these are, Fisherman’s Friends’ repertoire expands much wider than that. An Americana-infused riverboat song, traditional songs of a non-seafaring nature, a Show Of Hands cover and the sea shanty ‘sub-genre’ of whaling songs all nestle with the anticipated shanties in the set tonight. Although many of the songs are delivered acapello showcasing the rich range of voices from the seven men on stage, there is also some nicely played guitar and accordion thrown into the mix at times, too.

Fisherman’s Friends are brothers and lobster fishermen John and Jeremy Brown, writer Jon Cleave, potter Billy Hawkins, smallholder John Lethbridge, builder John McDonnell, fisherman Jason Nicholas and film maker Toby Lobb. However, due to other commitments founder member John Brown is taking some time out on this tour and has been temporarily replaced by Jon Darley from upcoming, Bristol-based sea shanty group The Longest Johns. In a stage act that is never short of banter, much is made of the imposing hunk-like presence of the handsome young Darley joining the predominantly silver-haired Fisherman’s Friends on stage. As well as the body, however, Darley has a superb voice and takes the lead on a handful of songs tonight, including a gloriously rousing ‘Drunken Sailor’ for the encore. In fact, it would be good to see the Longest Johns doing a gig in their own right here in Hastings – someone book them!

Highlights in the set for me tonight include ‘Leaving Of Liverpool’ (a song which I think must have been compulsory learning for every primary school class in mid-1970s Lancashire and one where I know every word), ‘Cousin Jack’ (a spirited cover of the Show Of Hands favourite) and a rousing ‘The Union Of Different Kinds’ (definitely an anthem for these divided times).

Fisherman’s Friends certainly deserved the thunderous encore they got tonight. And my friend? She loved it, including all the shanties, Phew!

https://thefishermansfriends.com/

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Related review:
Album review – The Longest Johns

Folk: album review -The Longest Johns ‘Written in Salt’

My review was originally published on the Bright Young Folk website here

The Bristol-based five-piece are an a capella folk band with a particular emphasis on performing sea shanties. Although they have produced a couple of well-received EPs before, Written in Salt is The Longest Johns’ debut album.

As the album title suggests, a passion for maritime songs is very much at the heart of what The Longest Johns and this album are about. Consisting of thirteen tracks, all are sung a capella, save for a lone instrumental and a spoken-word narrative on the album.

Although the group originally began as a four-piece they expanded to a five-piece in 2015, which allows them to showcase a magnificent vocal range and some wonderful harmonies.

There are some well-chosen traditional shanties on the album including Old Maui, a traditional whaling song; Randy Dandy-O and, rounding off the album is Drunken Sailor, nowadays by far one of the best-known shanties in the entire repertoire, but the group give it a fresh, lively and compelling interpretation.

The Grey Funnel Line sticks with the maritime theme, but rather than being another raucous work song, it gives the band the chance to demonstrate their more mournful side with a song that captures the homesickness and longing for a true love that accompany a life at sea.

This is not just a band that sticks to interpretations of traditional songs and covers, though. The album also features a number of self-penned shanties. Barge Ballad, penned by the band’s Josh Bower, opens the album and in its writing, melody and delivery there is an authenticity about it that gives the song a natural and completely uncontrived flavour.

Written in Salt is a fine debut album from five guys who are able to apply their considerable vocal and creative talents to both revisiting traditional shanties and contributing new ones to the genre.

Released June 2016

http://www.thelongestjohns.com/

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The Young ‘uns at Great British Folk Festival 7/12/14

A bit of humorous banter between songs and a few amusing anecdotes do often help bring a folk gig to life and allow the artist to interact properly with the audience. But all too often the off-the-cuff “spontaneous” banter starts to become a bit repetitive when you see the same artist trotting out the same old carefully rehearsed lines gig after gig. No-one could ever, ever accuse the Young ‘uns of doing this, however. So side-splittingly hilarious are these three twenty-something Teesiders that a gig like tonight’s at times threatens to descend into riotous chaos. The music they produce together, though, is to be taken very seriously indeed. The three, Sean Cooney, David Eagle and Michael Hughes, got into folk in their teens and have been performing together ever since. Beautiful harmony singing with simple accordion and acoustic guitar backing they are definitely one of the highlights of this year’s Great British Folk Festival, which comes to Skegness’s out-of -season Butlin’s holiday camp each December

Traditional sea shanties, juxtaposed with songs reflecting the north-east’s industrial heritage, mixed in with some biting but elegantly-written social commentary, together with a few well-chosen covers – it all makes for a varied and fascinating set-list. And given it’s almost Christmas we also get a few traditional wassailing songs thrown in as well. Tonight’s performance saw them introducing some songs from their forthcoming album (to be released next Spring). When a film crew from the notorious Channel 4 show, Benefits Street, descended on one street in Stockton-on-Tees they were physically chased away by local residents. You Won’t Find Me on Benefits Street appears on the album and is performed tonight – celebrating proud defiance in the face of grinding poverty and humiliating set-backs.

Having already released three albums, the trio have now gathered a strong back catalogue of material to draw on.  One song that always goes down exceptionally well at live shows is Cooney’s Love in a Northern Town, documenting not only the true story of how his grandparents met but also the wholesale decline of the Wearside shipyards “where all her ships and men are gone.”

Well-written meaningful songs that are beautifully sung it is well worth getting hold of the Young ‘uns albums. But for a real taste of the trio’s infectious humour and brilliant stage presence you have really, really got to see them live as well.

http://www.theyounguns.co.uk/

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Previous review: Young ‘uns at Cecil Sharp House