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Talking Elephant Records TECD299

Operating out of Kent, Swinging The Lead provide everything you would want for good solid folk performance of the maritime variety. Their current CD reflects an obvious enjoyment and connection with the material, so much so I found myself in very short order singing along with the choruses. If you are looking for a representation of a heartily ‘warts and all’ singing shanty crew, this is the CD for you. Maybe some of the notes on some of the songs are a bit wayward and maybe some of the arrangements are different to what you are used to, but there is a degree of honesty about this work that can only be applauded.

In my view, being more exposed, the a cappella songs are the least effective; however the accompanied songs have much more depth and complexity. I particularly liked the arrangement of the first track Nothing To Show For It All by Kieran Halpin, with the justified addition of Ellen Care’s haunting violin. The most successful, by far, of the a cappella songs, is the rendition of the traditional Long Time Ago. On this track the ensemble singing is much tighter with some refreshing elements of harmony. Final Trawl by Archie Fisher is another track of note which appeals because of the relaxed ease in which it is performed. The Dutch traditional song Haal ‘Em Maar Mee is an interesting inclusion on the CD with a great tune which belies “the hard life of a sailor” as declared by the informative CD notes.

This is a CD that grows on you the more you listen to it, consisting of interesting songs which are traditional and contemporary, unusual and well known, a collection that will appeal to many tastes.

John Oke Bartlett

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This album was reviewed in Issue 111 of The Living Tradition magazine.