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Talking Elephant Records TECD234

A nicely-punning group name plus a cover photo of the group doing a “where’s Wally?” amongst a collection of ships’ figureheads at the Cutty Sark Museum give the show away that this is going to be an album with a nautical theme. As indeed it is, with a mixture of shanties, forebitters and songs of the sea and sailors.

The crew comprises Dave Webb, Joe Whittaker, Pete Brooker and Stephen Skey, who take turns at lead vocals. There’s guitar from Dave and Joe; percussion from Pete, and mandolin, cuarto and whistle from Stephen and guest appearances from Colin Turner and Brian Withstandley on lead vocals; Malcom Rees, banjo; and Handsome Cabin Boy (really!), harmonica.

The songs range from traditional shanties, through the later days of whaling and sailing ships to more modern reflections on nautical themes by the likes of Rod Shearman, Cyril Tawney, Gordon Bok and Shep Woolley. There’s a good mixture of rip-roaring work songs and more poignant, reflective material, all of which merge together to give an overall feeling of the ups and downs of the sailor’s life. There’s also a song called Swinging The Lead which reminds us that the crew can see the humorous side of it all as well.

Overall, there’s a relaxed and easy-going feel to the album, with good, light vocal interplay amongst the guys, who are obviously comfortable with each other and with their material and would probably be a great bunch to run into at a maritime festival.

Gordon Potter

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This album was reviewed in Issue 100 of The Living Tradition magazine.