September-October 2007    






setofthesail.gif Following the oldest of musical traditions, Pint & Dale have gathered a number of great nautical-themed songs in their travels. Their latest CD The Set of the Sail features songs, both traditional and contemporary, they've collected in their travels to England.

Unlike some of the more traditional shanty bands, Pint & Dale dress up traditional songs with updated musical arrangements reminiscent of some of the better bands of the 1960s folk music revival but the sound is fresh and current. Felicia Dale plays the hurdy-gurdy, fiddle, whistles and bodhran. William Pint plays guitar and mandolin. Felicia Dale's hurdy-gurdy has a prominent role on this CD and it sounds like she has added a new dimension to her playing on that instrument giving it more of a leading role than on previous recordings.

One of the highlights on this CD is The Dreadnaught the tale of an American clipper ship that was wrecked in 1869 while rounding Cape Horn. The Dreadnaught was launched in 1853 and was renowned for its fast passage between Liverpool and New York. The song is a "forebitter", a sailor's term for the leisure-time counterpart of the work-song shanty. The song is introduced by a brief shanty, "One Ship Drives East":

One ship drives east and one ship drives west

By the self-same wind that blows.

Yet the set of the sail and not the gale -

The set of the sail and not the gale

Determines the way (aye-eh, aye-eh) that determines the way she blows.

Other fine selections include the capstan shanty Mother Dinah a work-song that sounds significantly less strenuous in this arrangement. The Trawling Trade by John Conolly (best known as the composer of the classic Fiddler's Green) is a lament for the days of the independent fisherman. The 18th century song Tom Bowling written by Tom Dibdin is said to have been Henry David Thoreau's favorite song. I don't know if Mr. Thoreau played the fiddle as well as Ms. Dale, but perhans sat beside Walden Pond whistling the tune. Go From My Window is an unusual song in that the fair maiden is able to resist the usually irresistible sailor and tells him to hit the road but in a very lady-like manner.

It seems a good nautical collection of songs is never complete without at least one tale of a woman going to sea disguised as a sailor. This CD has The Handsome Cabin Boy. "The sailors often smiled and said ‘he looks just like a girl!'" Two songs tell of the onshore adventures of sailors: Fire Down Below and Jack Tar Ashore. Fire Down Below is not the bawdy song usually associated with that title but a melancholy tale of a sailor on shore in a foreign land. Their version of Rolling Down to Old Maui has a very different feel from the usual rendition.

Two French melodies, a Fanfare and Adieu les Filles de Mon Pays, learned from hurdy-gurdy builder Mike Gilpin provide the opening and closing tunes of this collection.

This is a very satisfying and well-balanced collection of sea-faring songs. I would recommend this as an excellent CD for those who might shy away from sea music because of the raw, salty nature of most recordings, but I would not warn away real shanty fans either.