FolkWords Reviews

‘Spanker Boom’ by She Shanties - an entirely different look at a great heritage

(July 06, 2015)

Wherever they dwell in this country most people have heard shanty-men plying their wares across this nation’s musical landscape. These exclusively male crews range from the genuine article giving outstanding renditions of our sea-faring heritage to those that practice Robert Newton-accented plastic shanties. Those moulds and all between, are shattered spanker boom album coverby She Shanties who state: “The tide has turned – we’re women, we sing shanties.” And that sums up what you get with ‘Spanker Boom’, a fine set of shanties sung by a crew of women. It’s a fresh fair wind and a steer by the stars that takes an entirely different look at a great heritage – and makes a thoroughly good job of it.

The 12 voices whether lead or chorus, complement each other, the harmonies well-blended, the fit close and tight. The album was recorded in Gosforth Parish Church of St Nicholas and at times the production creates a distance that I suspect is not present at a live gig. Nevertheless, this is an album that will engage and delivers as promised.

The selection includes both old and modern, opening with their version of ‘The Bonny Ship The Diamond’ recalling the 1830 loss of the whaling ships The Diamond, Eliza Swan and The Resolution, while with ‘General Taylor’ they treat us to a typical capstan shanty, putting right the fact that General Zachary Taylor won the battle of Buena Vista. They leave the traditional shanty with a cracking version of ‘Tilbury Town, Rolling Down the River’ a ‘modern’ shanty written by Jack Forbes but unless you knew you wouldn’t know, before delivering a spirited version of the well-known Peninsular War song, ‘Spanish Ladies’ and the familiar, much-sung ‘Bound for the Rio Grande’. To return to the ‘modern’ once more, She Shanties roll out the excellent ‘Roll Down’ from Peter Bellamy's ballad opera 'The Transports'.

And should anyone retain the slightest doubt that a crew of women can sing shanties, shame on you, listen to ‘Spanker Boom’ and you’ll be back on course. Find the album and She Shanties here: sheshanties.com

Review: Tim Carroll

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