Set of the Sail
Song Information and Liner Notes
Go From my Window
The Trawling Trade
Jack Tar Ashore
The Handsome Cabin Boy
Fire Down Below
Rolling Down to Old Maui
Adieu les Filles de mon Pays
Many of the songs on this CD have connections to England. We've had the good fortune to travel there often and meet many, many wonderful folk music enthusiasts and fabulous singers.
Go From my Window is one of those unusual sea songs where the female resists the charms of the sailor, telling him to be on his way. No details are revealed but, while she continues to address him as "my love, my dear" there is no doubt that Jack will be looking for his lodging elsewhere. Often sung a cappella at British folk clubs, we take some liberties here, but that's just what we do.
Linda Kelly lives near the port city, Hull and sings with Hazel Richings as the duet, Hissyfit. Linda's husband was once a fisherman setting out each day to make his living on the sea. She made use of his experiences to craft a number of fine songs including Northern Tide. Continuing our nautical theme, we follow it here with the traditional Irish jig, Out on the Ocean.
Also based in England's Northeast, songwriter John Conolly is best known for writing the 'traditional' song Fiddler's Green. The Trawling Trade is his look back in time to when a hard working fisherman could still make his fortune on the sea. We heard John sing this song at the Sea Fever Festival in Hull. We were on the run from one set to another, but the song stuck in our heads and when we spotted it in a songbook several years later, we decided to sort out an arrangement of our own.
Both Fanfare and Adieu les Filles de mon Pays are traditional French tunes given to us by our dear friend and hurdy-gurdy builder Mike Gilpin a few years ago in his charming cottage in beautiful Swaffam Bulbeck near Cambridge where he lives with his lovely wife Tania James (a splendid person and tremendous jeweler and silversmith) and a flock of rescued chickens.
The Dreadnaught, a favorite forebitter for years, was learned from Louis Killen's singing. When it comes to choruses, how can you improve on "Down Derry Down"? It's right up there with "Hey Nonny Nonny'!The Dreadnaught was an American clipper packet launched in 1853, famous for her many speedy passages across the Atlantic. She was wrecked in 1869 while rounding Cape Horn. I've heard that Martin Guitars named their dreadnought body style after this song, but that may be a folky legend. The little instrumental motif came to me in Yorkshire in 2006 and attached itself to the song like a barnacle. The opening melody, One Ship Drives East comes to us from the Digital Tradition database of songs. We searched for sea songs and were pleased to find this sweet little tune to use as an introduction to this cut as well as an inspiration for the title of the album.
Women going to sea disguised as males happened more often than you’d imagine. Some pulled off the deception for years without being discovered. I first heard a version of The Handsome Cabin Boy years ago from Seattle singer Stan James and many, many times by our dear friend Bolk and his dulcimer in Seattle. The traditional tune connected with the lyrics is quite slow. Our melody is lifted from Bannero via the singing of England's superb a capella group, Craig; Morgan; Robson. Their CD Peppers and Tomatoes is wonderful. Check it out if you love great singing and fabulous harmonies. The tune was so nice that I tried on song after song looking for one that fit. The Ballad of Gilligan's Isle kind of works too, so be thankful we settled for this one!
Tom Bowling was written by 18th Century British songwriter Charles Dibdin and is said to have been Henry David Thoreau's favorite song. Dibdin, who wrote over a thousand songs, came up with this one upon the death of his brother.
We learned it through the singing of Chris Roe in Seattle when we helped to produce her independent CD, A Round for the Company.
Our friend, Minnesota singer/scholar Bob Walser introduced us to this version of Fire Down Below which deals less specifically with flaming cargo or social disease and more with the on-shore adventures of a sailor in California's San Francisco Bay Area in the late 1800's. The 'Midway Plaisances' apparently refers to a notorious boardwalk/midway amusement area near San Francisco at that time. One source suggests that 'hula-hula dancer' should actually be 'hoochie-coochie' dancer -- one of the big attractions to be found there.
In a similar vein, Jack Tar Ashore tells of the temptations of any Sailor Town. I first sang this song with my old Seattle pub group Morrigan back in the late '70s. Our arrangement style was 'faster and louder' and we referred to this as 'Jethro Tull Goes to Sea', so one can imagine the approach. Recently I looked over the lyrics and found a sadder tale to be told. The lone sailor, back from sea with a big paycheck was an easy mark for many dockside characters. We'd been watching the HBO series Deadwood at the time and I thought you could probably change the setting from the old west to a seaport town and get a very similar results.
Mother Dinah is a capstan shanty that comes straight from the pages of Stan Hugill's immortal Shanties From the Seven Seas. Also a song from the Morrigan repertoire, this one never made it to our recording. It seems to tell much of its story between the lines.
Several versions of Rolling Down to Old Maui are floating around out there. This one is loosely based on one found in Gale Huntington's Songs the Whalemen Sang. We heard it at a shanty sing in the Washington, DC area and went straight to work mixing and matching lines and choruses. One can only imagine what it meant to sail into the Hawaiian Islands after endless months of suffering freezing weather and back breaking work in the northern whale fisheries. Our friend John Roberts recorded a version of this as well with his sea music trio. We couldn't resist adding bass and drums to rock out just a little bit.
Thank you for listening. We hope you enjoyed the journey. Please sail with us again.
This CD is dedicated to the memory of Felicia's father, Captain E.L. Dale, who sailed the seven seas for most of his life, and unfailingly supported our musical endeavors with incredible generosity.
Thanks for listening!