What People Are Saying About The HardTackers ---
The HardTackers sing of 'all navigable waterways' in voices as rich and diverse as the songs (all a capella, mostly traditional) on their two CD's."
It would seem a difficult task to take sea chanteys sung by ancient sailors to accomplish their every day tasks, and make these traveling ballads palatable, and actually enjoyed by today's tech-savvy folk. But The Hardtackers do that very thing, and serve up the old songs with a heavy dose of laughter, quips and history as well.
For The HardTackers, those ancient sailors' toil and dangerous journeys feel pretty recent, as they translate the stories for us, and even bring some of them up to date.
Historians they may be, but even more so, The HardTackers are adept entertainers who will leave you enlightened, laughing and singing along at the top of your lungs. Yo Ho, me boys, Yo HO!
This Saturday, I attended the 12th annual Chicago Maritime Festival at the Chicago History Museum. It was my second time at the festival and I enjoyed it. It’s not quite as old and established as the University of Chicago Folk Festival, but that’s been around for 54 years. The festival is a combination of sea shanty music and workshops.
I started my day with “Seaworthy Shakespeare” workshop put on by Chicago based “Shakespeare All-Stars.” They were charming. They did little scenes three of the four plays with shipwrecks: The Tempest, The Comedy of Errors, and Twelfth Night. The group was charming. With few costumes and no scenery, they did an amazing job of evoking all the different characters from these plays. They began and ended their workshop with the play scenes from Midsummer Night’s Dream, which they acknowledge has nothing to do with the sea. But it was great so it doesn’t’ matter! I got to play the moon for a brief moment.
I spent the rest of the day in the various music workshops. The workshops are with the various performers on different topics. This year the topics included “Loss and Lament,” “Reflection,” and my personal favorite “Drinking Songs.” Most musicians would play in the evening concert. Some performers would give a little back-story about the song they were about to sing. There was a delightful workshop on squeezable instruments, like the concertina and accordion, which was super. One gentleman talked about how learning the harmonica was great for learning the concertina.
The most vivacious of the workshops was the drinking songs one. There were songs about alcohol, songs that you’d sing if you drank too much, and songs about what happens if you drink too much. My two favorite groups led the session: the San Francisco based Barbary Ghosts and the Columbus based HardTackers Shanty Crew. The Barbary Ghosts sang about a nasty fellow in San Francisco who owned a bar that served “cheap liquor.” He’d get men drunk, and drug them and then send them through the trapdoor in the floor to out of to sea. They also sang about boozing and rye whiskey. The HardTackers sang about the Empire and Queen; it’s what you’d sing if you were really far along… They also sang a rousing rendition of “All for Me Grog” which has to be my favorite Irish drinking song.
In an earlier session on “Loss and Lament”, the Barbary Ghosts sang about a famous captain who could not sail anymore. The song is about his desire to go to the docks to see his old ship Alice once again. The chorus is “Rosie get my Sunday shoes, Gertie get my walkin’ cane. We’ll take another walk to see old Alice sail again.” It’s so lovely. Apparently, the old captain is related to one of the musicians through his brother-in-law.
And then my favorite shanty group did a half hour concert. They are the Bounding Main, an a cappella, humorous group that wears garb. What’s not to love? They sang about the shipwrecks in the Great Lakes and about the storage containers that are used today. As much as I love the old songs, it’s nice to hear some new songs about the current situation. They told amazing jokes including: “Two parrots were sitting on a perch. One turned to the other and said, ‘Do you smell something fishy?’” Teehee.
Then the daytime part of the festival was finished off with a workshop of bawdy shanty songs. It was really charming that all these adults would get together and sing fairly raunchy songs together. Some of the workshop musicians played various naughty songs (including one about condoms), others sang songs with swear words (sailors swear! Who knew!). Audience members were invited to come up and sing as well. It was good dirty fun.
In the evening, there was a concert of many of the musicians from the festival. Next year, I’ll probably go to either the day events or just the concert since it’s the same musicians at both. There weren’t many repeat songs and when a song was repeated in the evening, it was done by another musician or group. The HardTackers sang Admiral Nelson’s favorite song, which was a real hit in our party. It was a lovely event and I look forward to next year."Not Without My Bowler Hat" Blog--Elisa Shoenberger
Chicago Maritime Festival
February 22, 2014
The HardTackers Shanty Crew, a seven-man shanty crew based in Columbus, Ohio, released a great new CD
a few months ago, Don’t Forget Your Old Shipmates, which features a
wonderful mix of shanties and sea songs, old and new. The twenty one songs
range from traditional shanties and forebitters such as Whiskey Johnny,
Congo River, Sally Brown and the Cornish Leaving Shanty to more
modern tunes, such as Stan Roger’s Barrett’s Privateers and Dramamine,
a wonderful parody of Whup Jamborree. Dramamine is a song any sailor who
has ever been seasick will instantly relate to. The HardTackers don’t ignore
fresh water either, including the songs The E-Ri-Ee Was A’risin’ and Fifteen
Miles On the Erie Canal. These days shanties and sea songs are often
accompanied by instruments ranging from guitars and mandolins to full
orchestration. The HardTackers’ music has none of that. Their shanties are as
they were sung in the age of sail. Strong voices and close harmonies carry the
music along very well indeed. Adding any sort of accompaniment would feel
extraneous. Don’t Forget Your Old Shipmates is just great fun. It is a
fine collection of sea songs, well sung, and nearly impossible not to sing
along to. Highly recommended. Don’t Forget Your Old Shipmates is available
on Amazon and CD Baby.
Old Salt Blog
There’s nothing quite like the sound of a wooden ship sailing. Add the authentic work rhythms conveyed via the chanteymen, and you have some idea of a day sailing with The HardTackers. Prior to the group sailing away on the U.S. Brig Niagara last September, the group generously donated their time and talent to entertain during an outdoor lunch time concert on Niagara Plaza at the Erie Maritime Museum. They played well to an audience of all ages, and soon had everyone singing and tapping along. . . a great beginning to the Museum’s maritime event series this season!
Linda Bolla, Erie Maritime Museum
The HardTackers -- Authentic Shanties
Celtic Music Magazine -- August 28, 2013 --