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CHRIS RICKETTS - Port of Escape

CHRIS RICKETTS - Port of Escape
Acoustic Fusion Records  AF01

Just a couple of weeks before this CD popped through the letter-box, I was on board the Colombian Tall Ship “Gloria” while she was anchored at Greenock, and salsa music was being played full-blast from the ship’s speakers.  I made a comment to a deck officer about it, and he said, straight-faced, that it made a change from shanties!  I’m not sure how serious he was, but I was reminded of our chat by a comment Chris makes, that the shanty-singing world is not hugely populated by the younger generations.  This is his attempt to “give it the kick start and rebirth that it deserves”.

So, rather than an album of unaccompanied worksongs, Chris accompanies himself on guitar, and is joined by Steve Hampton on bass, electric guitar, lap steel and mandolin, Alex Stack on drums, and Gerry Blakely on strings. Chris, Steve and Todd Hocker provide backing vocals.  In fact, the only a cappella number is Stan Rogers’ Northwest Passage, giving a fine contrast with the older revisited shanties.

I’m sure there are a number of purists who will maintain that shanties should always be sung as they were meant to be, and, to be fair, there is an aspect to that argument with which I can agree, but if Chris’ comment about engaging younger generations is correct (which it is) then it’s maybe best not to compare the old and new versions, rather listen to the dynamic and vibrant arrangements which bring a drive and life to the songs which makes the listener sit up and pay attention.  Chris has a voice which is well-suited to this genre of song, and it is in no way overwhelmed by the backing.

So, a fresh start for some old shanties, taking them on a different tack, but still towards the same direction – that of enjoyment of the material. A worthwhile voyage.

Gordon Potter

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This album was reviewed in Issue 90 of The Living Tradition magazine.