various artists,
People & Songs of the Sea
(Greentrax, 2009)

The sea is probably the most emotionally charged elements of our world. Whether we see the calming and soothing sunset over water or the stormy, wind-lashed rocky shore, we are drawn to it. Maybe it is the majesty or maybe it is the belief that in the beginning we all originated in the water. In any case, this collection of 21 tracks will appeal to all with basic human urges and genetic memory.

The album is connected to a photographic exhibition of the same name, but luckily for a potential worldwide audience it stands alone very well. The artists are the cream of Scottish performers giving their all on works by the best of Scottish writers.

It opens with the sadly departed Davy Steele singing his own poignant "Farewell to the Haven," reflecting the decline of the formerly vibrant fishing industry that once powered hundreds of remote villages. "Keepers' commemorates another tradition often being replaced by mechanization as lighthouse keepers, those legendary solitary men, lose their jobs to computers that will never be able to drag a man from the waves.

Part of Scottish maritime history is recalled on "Song for Cove," when one of the worst fishing disasters struck in 1881. The Corries give us one of the better-known tracks with Ewan McColl's "Shoals of Herring." The heroes of the lifeboats are praised by Isla St. Clair on the haunting "Life Boat Song." Sung without accompaniment her voice is ideally suited to this beautifully sentimental song.

Communal singing is ideally suited to songs of high emotion and fishing villages are renowned for their community spirit epitomised in this outlet. "The Boatie Rows" performed by Harbour Lights is a wonderful example of this. One can visualize the village hall packed with people connected to the sea singing along.

The album closes with a rousing rendition of a traditional hymn once again reflecting the intertwining of nature at its strongest to religious belief. Fisher Folk Choir provides an ideal closing song with "Will Your Anchor Hold."

A beautifully produced booklet giving the background to the songs and featuring a collection of photographs old and new that ideally complement the music accompanies this timely album.

review by
Nicky Rossiter

4 July 2009

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