Chris Ricketts - latest album ‘Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea’(June 07, 2013)
Now here’s a man that’s clearly in the process of a poetic sea change. With a powerful reputation as one of this country’s foremost shanty singers and renowned custodian of English maritime-influenced traditional music, Chris Ricketts has with his latest album ‘Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea’ retained the form but transformed the substance.
For starters, with ‘Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea’ Ricketts has moved his interpretation of the shanty-man’s art forward by including more of his own compositions rather than simply working with re-arranged traditional tunes and shanties. In fact, there are only two traditional tracks in evidence here. Along the way he’s also added more musicians, although as with his previous albums he’s still working with Steve Hampton, and together they’ve produced a richer and more complex sound. As well as some stunning Ricketts self-penned tracks, there are also collaborations with Todd Hooker and Becky Jerams that have produced some memorable songs.
The opener sets the course as ‘No Sad Farewells’ hints at a more contemporary sound while with ‘Plain Sailing’ you experience its full complexity. Filled with longing for home and family, ‘Where Are You Tonight’ is as mournful as they come and with the addition of stunning vocals from Becky Jerams is a pure beauty. Another Ricketts original, ‘These Are The Songs’ could be from today or hundreds of years ago; a fine modern-day shanty, while ‘On The Road Again’ has a presence that grabs attention, a hook that stays with you and perfectly-placed electric guitars.
Contributing to ‘Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea’ are Chris Ricketts (vocals, acoustic guitars, tres guitar, ukulele) Steve Hampton (electric guitars, bass, programming, backing vocals) Todd Hooker (acoustic guitars, backing vocals) Matthew Blackwell (piano) Garry Blakeley (fiddle, strings) Chris Dennison (drums) Becky Jerams (vocals) with Billy Gregory and Bethany Raine (backing vocals).
If you enjoyed Ricketts’ previous albums then this one will take you somewhere new within the shanty tradition, pushing the bounds of that heritage into new worlds. Some may feel he's moved a step or two from his roots - it's more accurate to say he's encouraging some new shoots to flourish.
Reviewer: Tim Carroll