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PRESSGANG MUTINY - Across The Western Ocean 

PRESSGANG MUTINY - Across The Western Ocean 

Whilst it’s true that shantymen and their crews on board a working ship would have been more concerned with the rhythms than the niceties of the music, it’s a treat to hear their songs sung by people who remain true to the purpose of the shanties and can master harmonies which grab the listener’s attention. This CD combines the essence of the work-song with a high level of vocal dexterity.

Pressgang Mutiny is a Canadian group comprising Richard Kott, James McKie, Tim Pyron and Stefan Read, and their singing is perfectly suited to their material, combining the powerful drive needed for working along with an enthusiasm for the task in hand which comes across in every syllable.

Most of the songs here are traditional sea-going shanties, drawn from many sources, including the peerless Stan Hugill, and they also include rowing songs and a couple of surprises, like a modern Poor Johnny and, appropriately for a Canadian crew, a Breton whaling song, Pique La Baleine. Perhaps the most attention-grabbing number, however, is Roll Away written by Anais Mitchell and Martin Green, which tells (albeit in a shanty style) the true story of an Austrian Jew forced to flee his country in the 1930s and seek refuge in a ghetto in Shanghai.

The singing, which tends to be towards the baritone range, is note-perfect throughout, making this a group I’d love to hear live once that’s allowed again. If there’s anything to complain about, it’s that the CD is only 38 minutes long – with singing like this, I could listen a lot longer!

Gordon Potter


This review appeared in Issue 136 of The Living Tradition magazine