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This was a real madeleine-cake of an album
for me. Suddenly I was back 34 years to my life as a lighthouse
keeper, staring out at the ocean.
For this excellent Seattle-based duo specialise in songs of the
sea, and this is their sixth album that has maritime life as
its theme. And, so well do they evoke sea breezes and the smell
of saltwater that it made me wish I had encountered their previous
Pint has a strong voice that lends itself well to sea shanties.
Dale too can handle a song lyric, and also sings a compelling
harmonic line. But best of all is her hurdy-gurdy: it seems to
be ubiquitous on the album.
So divinely MELODIC-not a quality I normally
think of with this instrument! that it made me wonder why
the hurdy-gurdy does not have more exponents on the UK folk scene.
The stand-out track was that old favourite -Johnny
Todd. Now normally this is played at brisk march speed: it is
no coincidence that British soccer team Everton AFC run out to
it every game at Goodison Park. But they would not run out to
Because here, Pint & Dale slow it right down, and in the
process make it a thoughtful, almost meditative piece.
And thus they extracted every ounce of meaning from a lyric I
admit to having never really previously properly considered.
columnist, The Living Tradition
(Britain's premier trad music print magazine)
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WHITE HORSES William Pint & Felicia Dale
Waterbug WBG 051
With this new release, freshly-relocated Stateside duo Pint and
Dale return to their more usual stamping-ground, that of the
maritime heritage. Neither the repertoire nor its treatment turns
out to be predictable, I hasten to add, for they bookend the
album with refreshing new incarnations of the shanties Cape
Cod Girls and Leave Her Johnny Leave Her. Elsewhere
they introduce us to fascinating relatively uncharted material
such as the French whaleboat rowing shanty Pique La Balene,
cast new light on the dramatic ballad of Davy Lowston,
bring a thoughtful demeanour to the tale of Johnny Todd
and import a nicely understated rhythm section (Matt Eggleston
and Dalton Davis) for a driving Jack the Jolly Tar and
an appropriately rockin' and rollin' One More Day.
eminently listener-friendly hurdy-gurdy is (sensibly) well to
the fore throughout the album, and the duo's guitars, mandolins,
whistles and percussion are so well arranged as to demand no
further augmentation, save for Nancy Wharton's cello on occasion.
Vocally, both William and Felicia are if anything stronger than
ever, with the doomy Bring 'Em Down (learnt from the singing
of Louis Killen) a particular highlight. As well as a wonderfully
varied selection of songs, there's a lively pair of hornpipes,
a Breton tune and Metal Man, which beautifully sets the
scene for Brian Bedford's poignant White Horses Are Calling
Me. Finally, the album's humorous quotient is provided by
Brian Leo's The Sea, which you can easily program out
if you find its waves of 'unmitigated silliness' engulfing you...
myself, I found it a perfect foil for the rest of this fine album,
which (like the duo's earlier albums) retains a healthy balance
between enjoyment and scholarship.
fRoots (Folk Roots) UK
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There's tremendous power in
the old sea chanteys of the British Isles and North American
coast. They had to be strong songs, to energize the sailors
doing hard work under difficult conditions in the age of sail.
And few modern interpreters of sea chanteys capture their spirit
and energy as well as the Seattle-area duo of William Pint and
Felicia Dale. White Horses, their sixth album, is another
choice collection of very contemporary arrangements of mostly
This duo is equally comfortable
in acoustic and electric modes, with the former predominating
on this disc. They sing strong, clear harmonies, often multiplied
by overdubbing, and, in addition to Pint's steady guitar accompaniment,
their sound is defined by Dale's squalling hurdy-gurdy, an unconventional
sound in sea music but a wonderful adaptation of one tradition
not afraid to rework old songs to find new colors in them. "Cape
Cod Girls" get a propulsive, syncopated new melody, and
"Johnny Todd" is slowed way down to bring out the loneliness
in the broken romance behind the lyric.
They add bass, drums and amplification
for two of the disc's best tracks, all-out folk-rock arrangements
of the chanteys "One More Day" (which takes quite literally
the repeating line "rock and roll me over, boys") and
"Leave Her Johnny," both with awesomely singable choruses.
On the other hand, the powerful "Bring 'Em Down" and
"Across the Western Ocean" are sung unaccompanied,
with the duo's voices overdubbed into a hearty chorus.
The title track of White
Horses is a wishful, uplifting song about hopes and dreams
written by Brian Bedford of the English trio Artisan.
Dale also employs her hurdy-gurdy to good effect on the sort
of dance music for which the machine was designed, on a Breton
tunes that's paired with a French whaling chantey and on a pair
of borrowed Irish hornpipes.
Listen to this one with a
view of the ocean if you can, and if not, be assured you'll be
transported there by some of the best saltwater music you can
-Tom Nelligan (Waltham, MA)
Dirty Linen magazine
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Sea shanties and other ocean-going songs are
the mainstay of White Horses from William Pint and Felicia
Dale. The exuberant arrangements make this CD particularly appealing,
highlighted with the unusual sound of Dale's hurdy-gurdy.
Pint provides vocals and plays guitars, mandolins,
keyboards and bodhran; in addition to hurdy-gurdy, Dale sings
and plays whistles and bodhran. They're supported by Nancy Wharton
on cello, Matt Eggleston on electric bass and Dalton Davis on
drums. Jim "Silver Sewerpipe" Bachman and Jason "Cabin
Boy" Brinkley chip in on the chorus of the final track,
There's plenty of variety on White Horses.
The CD gets off to a merry start with "Cape Cod Girls,"
which deviates from the traditional melody and features robust
harmonies. The tone turns somber with "Davey Lowston,"
a song that tells of a doomed sealing expedition. The hurdy-gurdy
has a mournful sound and Wharton's cello wells up expressively.
The result is emotionally resonant. The contrast between the
two tracks is dramatically marked.
"Twiddles" by Janie Meneely is a
wonderfully wicked song about the women that the sailors and
sea captains leave behind. "Do we sit at home and twiddle
thumbs until our men come home?" sings Dale. "Oh there's
other things to twiddle when a girl's left on her own."
It's a clever song that tells the other side of the equation
of the sailor with a girl in every port: "If you added up
two and two you'd figure out right quick/That it's just because
the lassies have a lad on every ship."
Pint and Dale rock and reel on "One More
Day," a sea song given a back beat and a bass line, not
to mention nifty riffs on the hurdy-gurdy. This lively track
provides welcome relief from the grim and haunting "Bring
'em Down," which precedes it.
It's followed by a set of two hornpipes, "The
Humors of Ballyconnell/Tom of the Mountains" which allows
the duo to show off the instrumental side of their talent. Other
tracks of note include -- but are not limited to -- "Pique
la Baleine," a whaleboat rowing shanty, "Johnny Todd,"
and the poignant, lovely title track "White Horses (Are
Calling Me)," which begins with a tune "Metal Man"
performed on the pennywhistle. "Leave Her Johnny" is
an upbeat rousing shanty and they close with the utterly nonsensical
Pint's expressive voice has an appealing and
warm timbre. Dale's voice is equally expressive and versatile,
whether standing out on a solo or meshing with Pint in harmony.
The arrangements tend to bring out the best in their performances,
and overall, this CD is as bracing as a brisk sea breeze.
[ by Donna Scanlon ]
Celtic Rambles: 2 February 2002
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