Shower me with shanties
August 12, 2011 6:32 AM   Subscribe

I've fallen in love with Stan Rogers. Specifically his wonderful shanties.

Would we call them shanties? I'm talking about Northwest Passage and Barrett's Privateers. Where can I find more amazing stuff like this? Who should I be listening to? (I like Bonny Prince Billy's Madeleine Mary too). Touching, rousing, dramatic, perhaps even creepy and not-necessarily-nautically-themed-but-that-would-be-good.
posted by tumid dahlia to Media & Arts (21 answers total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
The Mariner's Revenge Song by the Decembrists. Recorded into a single mic for extra authenticity!
posted by griphus at 6:35 AM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks griphus Ideally I would like vocal-only but that's my fault for mentioning Madeleine-Mary. Fun song though!
posted by tumid dahlia at 6:39 AM on August 12, 2011

You want this: Classic Maritime Music from Smithsonian Folkways
posted by ghharr at 6:39 AM on August 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

I have this v. nice CD of sea shanties by the Robert Shaw Corale.

For non-shanty choral music Percy Grainger is your man.

I love this kind of music!
posted by that girl at 6:46 AM on August 12, 2011

Have you heard the Rogue's Gallery CD with shanties sung by Nick Cave, Bryan Ferry and the like? And while looking for the title to that I came across this website.
posted by readery at 7:02 AM on August 12, 2011

For a sideways twist from your main interest—and it is sideways from here, so you may be less interested—in shanty-dom slightly towards Appalachian/goth (??), you might (OR YES MIGHT NOT) enjoy Faun Fables. I prefer my folk shanties with ladies. (Sample; sample.) (And some of it is vocal-only.) (You may also enjoy this kooky video. There is yodeling!)
posted by RJ Reynolds at 7:22 AM on August 12, 2011

I really don't think you can go wrong with Great Big Sea. They do more than shanties, adding some traditional Irish, English and Canadian folk songs, but I think you'll love them.
posted by inturnaround at 7:26 AM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

You might want to see if the mods can put your whole question on the front page so that the people who click through to answer are those familiar with Stan Rogers instead of those who like to answer human relations questions.
posted by John Cohen at 7:40 AM on August 12, 2011

I recommend Gordon Bok, both solo and his recordings with Ed Trickett and Ann Mayo Muir.
posted by mefireader at 7:47 AM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

There's a lot of bands that play in the Atlantic provinces that include this music. Not all of their music will be sea shanties but they definitely have a couple covers of traditional songs.

Some examples (not all from Canada): definitely Great Big Sea, The Irish Descendants, The Rankins, The Pogues, Spirit of the West, Evans and Doherty.

I bet if you look around Radio 3 you'll find a bunch more stuff.
posted by hydrobatidae at 7:58 AM on August 12, 2011

The rougue's gallery cd collection has tons of this kind of stuff
posted by The Whelk at 8:01 AM on August 12, 2011

Back in the day they used to call Rogers 'Steeleye Dan' for his relationship to, and musical influences from, Steeleye Span. You might also check out his long-term collaborator, and longer-term brother, Garnet Rogers. Garnet has a different sound, but the same tendency toward story-songs and strong artistic and thematic similarities.

Stan Rogers picks up on a sound which an be found all around the rim of the North Atlantic, from the Shetlands (where the sound of the Cape Breton fiddling, so influential in Rogers' music was developed) to Northern Spain to the Georgia in the southern US.

Things you might find interesting:

- Georgian 'shape note singings'
- Cape Breton fiddlers, like Natalie MacMaster
- Folk singing from the British Isles (especially Ireland)

Many Canadian bands have also been heavily influenced by Rogers as well as his near-contemporary Joni Mitchell (who musically overlaps with him in many respects). Great Big Sea is an obvious example, as is Spirit of the West. A quick google turns op Tanglefoot, Blue Rodeo (um... ish) and this page (quality not guaranteed... some of these groups may be similar to Rogers for reasons that don't correspond to your reasons for liking him).
posted by Dreadnought at 8:10 AM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

You're looking for ballads, mostly in the folk tradition.

Now, if you want actual sea shanties, and particularly traditional-y a capella shanties, you want anything by a guy named Johnny Collins. Also track down a copy of this album, which has an amazing collection of early 20th century recordings done by men who were some of the last to actually use these on the open sea (if I remember the extensive liner notes correctly).

If there's a time you'll be around, you can always ask folk to meet you at mixparty and share some music (or turntable or whate'er else is about these days).
posted by curious nu at 8:10 AM on August 12, 2011

Seconding Gordon Bok, although he tends to be a lot more pensive than Stan Rogers.

He was unfortunately fairly unique, which makes his loss all the more heartbreaking. The artists I know of who are most similar are his brother Garnet, (a band member on the most-popular recordings of the songs you mention), Finest Kind, Ian Robb (who is in Finest Kind), especially his album From Different Angels, John Roberts & Tony Barrand (especially Eat Bertha's Mussels, their live album).

A bit farther afield, David Francey and Brian Peters do vaguely-similar music.

Some of this stuff is on youtube for the casual viewing, some isn't.

If you like the acapella (vocal-only) stuff about half of Finest Kind will delight you. Their cover of The Times They Are A-Changing is simply staggeringly good.
posted by contrarian at 8:21 AM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

It's more shanty-inspired to my ear, but you may enjoy The Black Heart Procession's third album, entitled 3.
posted by LionIndex at 8:44 AM on August 12, 2011

Listing Ship has some songs that could be called shanty-influenced. Check out A Hull Full of Oil and Bone in particular.
posted by euphorb at 8:57 AM on August 12, 2011

I discovered Stan Rogers a few years ago and also fell in love. Schooner Fare often pops up on my Pandora station that includes Stan Rogers and Ian Robb has some excellent stuff that contains marineresque tunes. I particularly like "Ye Mariners All" and "Make and Break Harbour" off of "From Different Angels."
posted by Polyhymnia at 11:00 AM on August 12, 2011

Also, the best thing about Gordon Bok is that not only does he sing sea shanties, he also builds boats!
posted by Polyhymnia at 11:02 AM on August 12, 2011

I've fallen in love with Stan Rogers. Specifically his wonderful shanties. Would we call them shanties? I'm talking about Northwest Passage yt and Barrett's Privateers

Strictly speaking, no, these aren't chanteys. They're contemporary singer-songwriter songs. But certainly Stan was inspired by sea chanteys, among other kinds of music.

I'm one of the people who used to study, teach about, and perform sea music at Mystic Seaport and helped put on the festival Greg Nog mentions! You'd probably like the festival.

There's a taxonomy to sea music. "Sea music" is the broadest term - it encompasses all music arising directly out of the maritime experience - pre-existing songs brought into the maritime context and widely adapted and shared by mariners, or songs composed in order to work and/or entertain by while at sea, and even contemporary music (like Stan's) created to refer to and extend this tradition. Other kinds of songs in the "sea music" category are called "sea songs" or "forebitters" - for songs that were just sung around the forebitts in the evening as entertainment - or indeed "ballads" if they had a narrative with a dramatic storyline and usually no chorus. A lot of Stan's songs are contemporary ballads. As someone else pointed out, you can find a ton of crossover between sea songs and traditional English-Irish music, because at the time the body of sea music was mostly being generated, sailors from those countries were frequently employed in seagoing professions. Add in, a little later on, music from the Caribbean and American South and North, and then the Pacific, and we often state that sea music was the first true "world music" traditions.

Chanteys are one particular kind of sea music. Not every song with a rousing refrain line or grand chorus is a chantey. Chanteys are songs whose tempo, rhythms, and content is performed specifically to match the labor of a task. They are (were) only sung while at work - never for entertainment - and were employed to help a group of workers accomplish a task that needed the coordination of movement or force. THey're rhythmically very clear and usually specific actions (like hauling on a line, or pumping something up and down) are cued by the cadences of the songs.

Barrett's is clearly inspired by chantey traditions, but is not a chantey itself. It's got a refrain ("How I wish I was in Sherbrooke....") and a grand chorus ("God damn them all...") but it's a completely original tune and composition. It could probably be sung at the capstan, but because it's not a song ever used at that task it's not a traditional chantey, just a new composition in the chantey vein.

Where can I find more amazing stuff like this? Who should I be listening to?

You've got some great suggestions here - Ian Robb's Finest Kind is terrific. You might also like to check out Louis Killen who sings traditional chanteys and sea songs, and Gordon Bok.
posted by Miko at 11:05 AM on August 12, 2011 [4 favorites]

Has nobody yet mentioned Stan's son Nathan Rogers? He sounds eerily like his father. His songwriting ability is unquestionably good. I heard an interview with him on CBC where he stated that he named his album "The Gaunlet" in the sense that he was throwing one down as a challenge to other songwriters to do better.
posted by Brodiggitty at 6:03 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Lots of great suggestions here--I have to second Finest Kind's amazing singing and Tanglefoot's energy (oh, and David Francy). As long as Steeleye Span's been mentioned, their contemporaries, Fairport Convention, should also be noted, especially anything with vocals by Sandy Denny. You might also enjoy some more or less traditional Irish groups such as the Dubliners, who sing a number of nautical songs, such as this one, where they are joined by the aforementioned Pogues. Coming back to Canada, if you haven't checked out Kate and Anna McGarrigle you really should, even if they are better known for a song set on a river than on the sea. Finally, I'd like to point you towards at least one singer whose repertoire includes songs that might actually have been sung by sailors: former submariner turned folk-singer Tom Lewis.
posted by Sing Fool Sing at 12:10 AM on August 13, 2011

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