Songs from an Old Sea Chest

Track Notes

Storm Along Stormy – Based on a minstrel song by John Smith of White's Serenaders at the Melodeon, 1854. Unfortunately there is no reference to a tune for this song. My own tune is inspired by the traditional Sail Away, Ladies, Sail Away. This minstrel song may in fact be based on an actual stevedore song. It's also the first published mention of "Stormalong" that I'm aware of; "Stormalong" became a favorite character in many subsequent deep-water shanties. I've added a couple of verses and slightly modified the chorus.

Laying on the Screw – Based on a poem by Australian dock clerk Edwin J. Brady, 1899, here we have a tribute to the stevedores who worked the Sydney docks, screwing bales of wool down below in the holds of ships. The tune of the verse and chorus is partially inspired by Rambling Rover by Andy M. Stewart (UK).

Rathlin Head – Based on a poem by Cicely Fox Smith (UK) with tune by Michael Kennedy, © 2010, used with permission, this song beautifully describes the mixed emotions of a young person leaving Liverpool for the first time via steamship at night and may reflect the poet's own thoughts as she steamed out for Canada in 1911; guitar accompaniment by Jeff Logan.

Chalk Ginger Blue – I based this song on the diary of a young woman from Richmond, Maine, who sailed away in the 1850s with her new husband/captain on a voyage which took them to Cuba, to London, and back to Savanna. The verses are based on the passages which I found most compelling. The captain's pet phrase "chalk ginger blue" can be traced back to mid 19th century African American dancing in which dancers would exclaim "Oh walk chalk, Ginger Blue!" The tune is inspired by Darling Nellie Gray composed by Benjamin R. Hanby in 1856.

A Night at Dago Tom's – This poem by John Masefield was adapted for singing by Andy Kenna (UK), Liverpool Forebitter, © 2002, used with permission, and is a vivid description of a sailor's spree ashore. Andy deserves special credit for the tune and for replacing Masefield's discrete last line with more robust phrasing.

Drink to the Men Who've Gone Ashore – Based on a poem by marine engineer and nautical writer William McFee, 1909. I composed most of the verses, fleshing out this story of betrayal and warning. My oriental sounding tune is inspired by Meadowlands.

Angelina – This song by Mike Kennedy, © 2010, is a tribute to all the old windjammers that used to roam the Seven Seas, the young men who crewed them, and the old men who still remember and cherish them; guitar accompaniment by Jeff Logan.

Clan Alpine – This song is by retired merchant mariner Ron Baxter, © 2008, used with permission, as set to music by myself. It's based on an actual incident which took place in 1961 when the SS Clan Alpine became stranded in a paddy field during a typhoon near the Karnaphuli River, in what was called East Pakistan.

Steamboat Days – This song is my tribute to the small steamboats that used to run the intercoastal waterways between Bath and Boothbay Harbor, Maine. You may imagine the captain describing this route to his new apprentice as they steam along the route.

The Jolly Bargeman – This poem by Cicely Fox Smith was inspired by the British Government's efforts to take over the canal system in support of the war effort during World War 1. In this version Mike Kennedy set the chorus to music and I did the same with the verse. I sang this song in the tavern of the Navigation Inn in the Bugsworth Basin in 2009, to the delight of the landlord.

Farewell to ANZAC – This song is a tribute to the Australian and New Zealand troops who were ordered to evacuate from the Gallipoli Peninsula, Turkey, during World War 1. This attempted invasion was one of the most disastrous defeats inflicted on the British Allied Army. I've adapted this poem by Cicely Fox Smith for singing, the tune inspired by You Gave Me a Song by Hazel Dickens.

Spectral Fishing Fleet – This song is my tribute to my friends in the former commercial fishing town of Fleetwood, UK. There are about a dozen former fishing boats rotting and rusting in the marshes adjacent to the harbor, presenting a haunting sight in the daytime and no doubt even more spooky at night; guitar accompaniment by Jeff Logan.

So They Said Good-Bye – The first verse of this song came to me one morning as a dream and my wife and I collaborated on the rest of the verses. We like the switch that happens to the typical plot line of sailor leaving his best girl behind on the shore. My wife and I take turns leading this song.

Old Tea Clipper Days – Based on a poem by New Zealand master mariner Angus Cameron Robertson, 1927. I've dropped one of the verses, did some other minor wording changes, and fitted it to the traditional Johnny Todd lament. I love this vivid description of life aboard an old tea clipper.

A Parting – Based on a poem by Cicely Fox Smith as adapted for singing by Gordon Morris (UK), © 2005, used with permission. Here we have an old sailor saying a sad farewell to his last ship; she's hardly the most beautiful ship in the world but for him she is rich with memories. My wife Judy Barrows has changed a few more words and leads this song.

High Tide at 4 A.M. – This song is based on another poem by William McFee, 1909. I've adapted it for singing, using Stan Rogers' tune Make and Break Harbour, © 1976 Fogarty's Cove Music. Here we have a retired sailor watching his old ship load and leave harbor, while he thinks about his old shipmates.

Press Room's Extra Voice – This song is my tribute to nautical singer and good friend Barry Finn. Some of my verses are loosely based on the Cicely Fox Smith poem The "Tryphenia's" Extra Hand, as set to music by Bob Zentz, © 2007. I remember well the nautical music session that took place at the Press Room, a tavern in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the weekend after Barry died. We still hear his voice there at our monthly sea music sessions echoing on the choruses.

- Charlie Ipcar, June 5, 2012

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