A Favourite Shanty

We’re still alive! We’ve been having a little break recently for a little jaunt to the land of the rising sun! Japan is an absolutely beautiful country and really gave us the rest we needed, and now we’re back and ready to get going again!

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We headed off to Cambridge last weekend to catch the most excellent Bellowhead on their farewell tour, stopping off to visit our friend Anna Hester for a little rehearsal for an upcoming folk song (stay tuned, it’s going to be great!). We had such an amazing time at Bellowhead that we decided we had to do a version of one of their songs.  So, very much like when we went to see Bella Hardy, we ended up learning a song on the car journey home!  The song we decided on was one of the most famous sea shanties out there: Haul Away Joe

Haul Away Joe is a type of sea song known as a “Halyard Shanty” which basically means it was sung when hauling ropes for anchor or for sails as a way to coordinate the men involved. Halyards generally the simplest shanties with short lines and simple catchy tunes.  The history of traditional shanties is often hard to trace, and this one is no different.  There are wax cylinder recordings of the song from the turn of the century and there are various mentions of it from around the start of the 19th century, but very little solid fact remains as to where it began.

Performing a version of a shanty poses a few problems for us…mainly that we are only 2 people and not a naval crew!  So instead of trying to imitate the great boisterous versions of this song (e.g. Bellowhead and many others) we decided to slow it down and give the song a sweeter, more lyrical sound while still maintaining the original rhythmic feel.  We’re really rather pleased with how this one turned out, we hope you enjoy it too!

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