She Shanties - Baston Review
She Shanties

Baston concert review

...What better way to forget the woes of the modern day but listening to a load of songs about maritime hardships, press-gangs, hard labour, sexual indiscretions and drunkenness. But that’s exactly what we were to get from tonight’s guests at Baston, the She Shanties, eight women mostly hailing from the north of England, though not always by the sea.


I must confess that I wasn’t sure if the She Shanties were going to be my cup of grog so I was immediately heartened by the strong choice of material, particularly in the first set. Round The Bay of Mexico, South Australia and Rio Grande are particular favourites and their versions didn’t disappoint. The eight singers (octet or perhaps octopuset) took it in turns to lead a song whilst the rest joined in and added volume and ballast to the tunes. This format works well. Whilst it has to be said that most of the individual voices were not always strong in their own right, the combination of all eight works a treat. It’s not long before the whole audience finds itself joining in without any feelings of self-consciousness. The performance is a celebration of song, singing and fun and the overall effect is one of comfortably winning a match without having to go to penalties or resorting to biting anyone (sorry!). All eight women look and sound individual but the complete sound works well. We are left with a double-edged feeling – admiration towards those who can stand on stage and sing combined with that ‘I could do that’ feeling.

My personal favourite songs were Roll Down, the exemplary Ruth-led Shallow Brown and Poor Old Horse. Shallow Brown is one of those songs that perhaps sums up the hardships of life and pain of parting which typified the age when service, servitude and slavery were often one and the same thing. I always end up with a lump in my throat whenever I hear or sing it.


Second set shanties included The Last Shanty, The Last Goodbye, Strike The Bell and the great Roll Alabama Roll, once again rendered with enthusiasm and gusto – and I didn’t feel seasick once!...


Copyright © Toby Woods 2014