Liner Notes for "Authentic Shanties"
Pacific Islanders, called “Kanakas” from the word for “people” in their native language group, were frequent members of sailing and whaling crews and were highly valued for their nautical skills.
Galway Girls (Traditional)
On a long and lonely ocean voyage, sailors are wont to engage in a bit of fantasy and perhaps wishful thinking when extolling the virtues of the girls back home.
Santy Anno (Traditional)
A shanty from, as Fred says, “…when the U.S. was in the habit of winning the wars it got into.”
Who’s On The Way? (Traditional, from the Great Lakes region)
The Ward Steamship Line ran ore freighters on the Great Lakes prior to the Civil War, employing free African-Americans to load and unload the ore. They endured long hours, miniscule wages, and terrible and abusive working conditions. The Ward Line never made the Fortune 500 List of the Best Companies to Work For in America.
An Ohio River shanty from the flatboat and keelboat days when Shawneetown, Illinois was the commercial capital of the Illinois territory, and the misbehavior capital of the West. What happened in Shawneetown, stayed in Shawneetown. One Shawneetown bank refused a loan to a business in the upstart town of Chicago on the basis that it was too far from Shawneetown and the place would never amount to anything. We now know who got the last laugh on that one.
Pay Me (Traditional, from the Georgia Sea Islands)
Labor-Management relations were sometimes rocky in the days before containerized freight and the Longshoremen’s Union, and it was good to have some burly, like-minded friends when collecting receivables.
The Mermaid (collected by Francis Child, Traditional)
You’re nineteen with raging hormones.-- You’ve been at sea for a long time.-- You see a mermaid. -- It’s a good thing, right?---Not so much.
The Hawaiian island of Maui was home base for much of the American Pacific whaling fleet and offered many pleasant distractions for the whalers who spent much of their time in cold, miserable, dangerous, and overworked conditions.
Marco Polo (Jim Stewart)
The ship Marco Polo was built in St. John, New Brunswick in 1852 and despite inauspicious beginnings, began to set record times for passages, partly from her unusual speediness, and partly because her captains made use of the great circle method of navigation and Matthew Fontaine Maury’s charts of prevailing ocean winds and currents. It is estimated that a majority of Australians can trace their lineage to someone who came to Australia on the Marco Polo during her 32 year career at sea.
Haul Away Joe (Traditional)
This traditional shanty demonstrates the method of synchronization of effort of a crew hauling on a line. Everyone would pull on “Joe”. Not only did the shanty provide a bit of humor and distraction from the arduous and boring work, it allowed synchronization where the wind and sea were howling so loudly you could not hear the shantyman, but you could hear the fellow next to you.
Skipper Jan Rebeck
We learned this shanty from the Frisian shanty group “Dutch Courage” at the Bay City Tall Ships Festival in 2010, and we pretty much stole it. Most sailors in the old days were not Dutch, but rather English or Irish or American, but many ships were of Dutch ownership or staffed by Dutch officers. There really was a Jan Rebeck, but this shanty has little to do with him. We detect a grudging admiration in this song for this legendary captain.
Soon after gold was discovered in California, Australia answered with a gold rush of her own. The prison colony that had been the worst place you could possibly go, became the land of promise.
Roll Alabama Roll (Traditional)
This shanty has nothing to do with SEC football, but rather the famous (or infamous) Confederate commerce raider that wreaked havoc on United States whaling and commercial shipping during the Civil War, replacing whale oil with petroleum as the fuel of choice, and making John D. Rockefeller very happy.
Tanqueray Martini-O (Paul Campbell and Jim Houlihan)
A somewhat more modern shanty from the region of Long Island Sound referencing a favorite variant (complete with recipe) of traditional navy grog, and an assessment of the local scenery.
Her Bright Smile Haunts Me Still (W.T. Wrighton, J.E. Carpenter)
On an extended voyage, long on toil and danger and short on pleasures and comforts, a pleasant memory might be all that a sailor had to keep him going.
A’ Rovin’ (Traditional)
Seafaring is an old and time-honored profession, but sailors sometimes encounter practitioners of an older profession – particularly in Amsterdam.