Link to Living Tradition Homepage






Waterbug WBG128

Over the past couple of decades, the trusty Pint & Dale brand-name has been responsible for some of the most scintillating and innovative modern folk treatments of shanties and songs from the wide spectrum of nautical music, a field in which they’ve become pre-eminent and which has formed the mainstay of their recorded output to date. Midnight On The Seas continues that worthy self-imposed tradition and brings us a further selection culled from the massive corpus of international maritime repertoire.

The hallmark of William & Felicia’s approach is a thoroughly infectious joie-de-vivre, a sense of driven momentum that derives as much from their choice of accompanying instrumentation (a key element amongst which is the wondrous sound of the hurdy gurdy) as from their invigorating, lively vocal performance. Added to which, William and Felicia are proudly meticulous with their research and preparation of texts and background information.

The album embraces a fine diversity of material. There are a couple of shanties: Fire Maringo, which hops and bounces rumbustiously along to an almost Caribbean-calypso rhythm, and the even jazzier Shiny-Oh, which is neatly paired with a hornpipe. The irresistible French/Breton feel carries on into a hybrid version of the traditional ballad Willy Taylor (adopting a more satisfying take on the customary nonsense refrain), and the cheeky-Celtic mood takes centre stage on the fun cautionary tale of the exploits of feisty mermaid Nasty Nell (a long-term live favourite which serves as the album’s finale). On the more wistful, reflective items such as Her Bright Smile Haunts Me Still, Rita Connolly’s Valparaiso and (best of all) Jennifer Cutting’s gorgeous anthem of reassurance, Steady As You Go, there’s an altogether gentler fullness by way of William’s mando-centred arrangements that feature Felicia’s whistle as well as fiddle from Tania Opland (other album guests include Mike Freeman and Jay Kenney). The album’s “big ballad” is the Tom Russell-penned narrative Isaac Lewis (which appropriates the Flying Cloud tune), here given a sturdy folk-rock-style setting. That leads me onto the curveball track, which probably both surprised and delighted me the most: a fearless prog-psych-style onslaught on Sally Free And Easy armed with bass and drum kit and spooky backing vocals, which rocks along like nobody’s business.

What’s not to like, then? I can only say that Pint & Dale’s self-confessed “tinkerings” with the source material may occasionally (at first) wrong foot the listener who’s more accustomed to traditionally-styled accounts – for instance, the disc opener, an attractively syncopated rendition of Row On, Row On, possesses a rather chirpy gait that might be felt to rob the text of some of its hymnal quality. But, once ‘in the groove’, even the hardiest purist will yield to the special charms of this charismatic duo. The album’s a keeper, and their bright smiles will haunt us still…

David Kidman

Secure On-line mailorder service
Many CDs we review are available from The Listening Post.
Check to see if this CD is available.

The Listening Post is the CD mailorder service of The Living Tradition magazine.
This album was reviewed in Issue 120 of The Living Tradition magazine.