Notes to the Songs
Fire Down Below (trad.) This shanty has roots in the Caribbean. We learned it from renowned sea song scholar Bob Walser; coincidentally also a resident of the Twin Cities. One of the lines refers to the Midway Plaisances in San Francisco which is said to have been one of the first entertainment venues to feature hoochee coochee dancers. This song refers to them as “hula” dancers. (2:32)
Blow the Man Down (trad.) This is a song that is vaguely familiar to many people. But, like a lot of sea shanties, there are a number of versions. Most can be categorized as either stories about “sailor on shore gets drunk and gets in trouble with the law” or poetic musings that disguise references to women with descriptions of ships. Our version falls into the second category. (2:59)
Roll The Old Chariots (trad.) A shanty that provides almost a limitless opportunity to sing about the things guys think about. We take turns on the verses. This was the second song we learned together, back when we were a Book Club.(2:52)
South Australia (trad.) Another shanty. We once had the pleasure of singing this with Louis Killen, one of world’s best singers of traditional song. He has recorded many collections devoted to sea music. (2:03)
Cape Cod Girls (trad.) This song is notable because the verses do not refer to drinking, bending, rolling, women or the robust pursuit of pleasure ashore in any way. It is a sea song that we like the sound of and that we learned really quickly. It pretty much came out good the first time we sang it. Curtice learned it near the source. (2:45)
Bully In the Alley (trad.) This song is said to be of Caribbean origin. There is a lively debate as to the exact meaning of “bully” in the context of this song. We generally take the view that it refers to an alcoholically impaired state of being. (3:06)
Whiskey Johnny (trad.) A shanty with many verses about the allure and destructive power of drink. Stan Hugill thought this was one of the older shantys to be passed down to the present. Kids love this one. It’s a lovely morality lesson. (2:24)
Mingulay Boat Song The lyrics were penned by Sir Hugh S. Roberton (1874-1952) in the 1930s. The original tune was a pipe tune, “Creag Guanach”; from Lochaber. The island of Mingulay, situated at almost the absolute southern tip of the Outer Hebrides about halfway between the Scottish mainland and northern Ireland, was abandoned in 1912. The song is about fishermen heading home. (3:20)
Rollin’ Down to Old Maui (trad.) A rousing story describing the joys of a respite in Hawaii from the rigors of the north Pacific whaling grounds. Our version is mostly from Stan Rogers. (3:31)
Haul Away Joe (trad.) Our version of this shanty comes from Liam Clancy and Louie Killen. (2:14)
Roll The Woodpile Down (trad.) A work song that appears to have been from the southern U.S. Stan Hugill suggests this may originally have been a river song. (2:42)
All for Me Grog A.L. Lloyd recorded this song in 1956 for his Riverside album English Drinking Songs. He commented: “Here we have a sailor’s song from the last bitter days of sail; a hard-scrubbed, threadbare relic of hearty “Yo-ho-ho” songs of old. Jack Tar is no longer jolly – his boots are scuffed, the rags of his shirt-tail flog him in the breeze, the alcoholic horrors are not far off and it’s time to look for a ship again.” We do a rollicking version. (4:07)
Boney Was a Warrior (trad.) The history of the Napoleonic era is summarized in nine simple verses. Some audience members are pleased and surprised they can speak French. Jean François has a prominent rôle. (1:28)
Fire Marengo (trad.) This shanty was almost certainly sung on ships at port in the southern U.S. It is likely of African-American origin. Although Marengo was the site of one of Napoleon’s many famous battles, that does not appear to be what the title refers to. In fact, no one seems to know for sure what it means. But is sure is fun to sing. (1:44)
A Rovin’ (trad.) This is a well-known tale of a sailor ashore looking for sexual gratification. Said to be one of the oldest known shanties. Is there a connection there? (2:58)
Bold Riley-O (trad.) Our version of this song is sung at a slow tempo. Less as a work song than a heartfelt song of farewell. It is our prettiest sea song. (3:39)
All songs are traditional and arranged by The Eddies.
This CD was produced by Chuck Lentz and Paul Martin. All songs were recorded at Ambient Sound, West St. Paul MN and engineered by Bob Cain. Design by Phil Platt.
Special thanks to: Bob Cain, Barb Rose, Barb Jennetta, Maria McNamara, Ann Holt, Owen & Grace, Liz Miller, Kris and Art, Kia, Barra, John Kerr, Louie Killen, Bob Walser, MBOTMA, Steve Cerkvenik, the Irish Fair, and others to be named at a later date.