Monday, January 23, 2012



Hold Fast 
by the Sail Pattern

The Sail Pattern are on the rockier end of folk rock compared with what I usually like, but when your first album is as good as this, you are welcome to be at which ever end of anything you choose.They have attitude They can play. They have their own voice. If they decide to sing Farewell And Adieu To Your Spanish Ladies then by god, you know you're listening to a Sail Pattern version of Farewell And Adie To You Spanish Ladies. There's a convincing machismo to the vocals offset by the merest hint of immaturity. (They look all of about 17.) They show every sign of caring about the folk tradition, and every sign of having grabbed it by the throat and thrown it overboard. Hard to know where their lyrics start and Anon's lyrics end. ("A puppet's on the throne of Spain and Bonaparte's in Cairo / With Nelson's ship we sailed away and fought him on the Nile-oh.") Their signature track, Hold Fast, wot they wrote themselves, oozes naval atmosphere; it isn't a shanty, it isn't a ballad, but it's fundamentally itself.

Port of Escape
by Chris Ricketts

Chris Ricketts claims to sing sea shanties with a twist. I am not quite sure what the twist is. I think it may be "good singing". He ooozes authenticity and sincerity. He sings Hanging Johnny (a relatively meaningless work song) with a mixture of melancholy and menace. ("I'd hang the holy family...'cos hanging is so bloody funny.") He sings Bound For South Australia with straightforward honesty and a didgereedoo, which mysteriously causes you to forget that such a band as Fisherman's Friends ever existed. He sings the full dress version of Spanish Ladies with guitars and seagulls and no lyrical concessions to landlubbers ("till we strike the soundings in the channels of old England"). He sings North West Passage, which might actually be a step too far. I heard him open for Martin Simpson, which is something no guitarist should ever have to do. There's something modest and warm and real in his voice; as if a  hundred year old sea dog has somehow got stuck in the body of a hobbit.

 Tomorrow We'll Be Sober 
 by Blackbeard's Tea Party

Last years EP, Heavens to Betsy blew me away. This year's follow up is even better. The choice of songs is impeccable: you can't not love an album which includes Barret's Privateers, Chicken on a Raft and Landlord Fill the Flowing Glass. The latter may be a rollicking bollocking drinking song with dirty words (which may owe more to the reenactment circuit than to Cecil Sharp) but it bears repeated listenings because of the wit of the arrangements (the musicians finding increasingly silly things to accompany each verse with). The finest, and least subtle moment on this, or perhaps any, album comes at the end of the colliers song I Can Hew. (Sweetly and mournfully): "And when I die, I know full well, I'm not bound for heaven I am bound for..." (rock-out explosion) "HELL!"

It was a dem close run thing, but the judge awarded the prize to Sail Pattern so he could claim to have liked them before they went mainstream.


Mike Taylor said...

You should also have a category for Worst Cinematography. Hold Fast would win that one, too. I feel seasick looking at it -- that deliberate evocation of atmosphere, do you think?

Andrew Rilstone said...

In keeping with the nautical theme, the Youtube links are pirate (argh!) or bootleg (if women don't kill me then whisky sure will) versions, and the bands are not to be held responsible for them.

Will try to do a spotify list as well, at some point.