Archive for the 'Seafaring' Category



The John B's Sails


h1 Monday, November 1st, 2004

sloop.jpg

This is a sea song from around Nassau. We recorded this at Ridley Pearson's house at the beginning of the Rock Bottom Remainders Wannapalooza 2004 Tour. Riddley, Dave Barry, Greg Iles, and I were the vocalists. Ridley played bass, and I played 6-string acoustic and Rickenbacker 12-string electric guitars.

Carl Sandburg says:

'John T. McCutcheon, cartoonist and kindly philosopher, and his wife Eveleyn Shaw McCutcheon, mother and poet, learned to sing this song on their Treasure Island in the West Indies. They tell of it, 'Time and usage have given this song almost the dignity of a national anthem around Nassau. The weathered ribs of the historic craft lie embedded in the sand at Governor's Harbour, when an expedition, especially set up for the purpose in 1926, extracted a knee of horseflesh and a ring-bolt. These relics are now preserved and built into the Watch Tower, designed by Mr. Howard Shaw and built on our southern coast a couple of points east by north of the star Canopus.'

In his book, ' FOLKSONGS OF NORTH-AMERICA,' John Lomax offers short bits of descriptive prose to set the scene for his collected works.

Here is his entry for 'THE JOHN B's SAILS':

'The small boat piers of Nassau Harbor form the market-place of the Bahamas. The dirty, sea-scarred sloops, tethered on the pale blue water, are like so many country wagons loaded with produce for sale in the capital. A sixteen-footer stands in towards the dock, its deck only a few inches above the waves, carrying a cow, five goats, a dozen hens, four women, six children, and four of five sailors. This crowded little boat is ending a journey from an island, perhaps two or three hundred miles away. As it noses into the pier, a similar craft lifts its ragged sail and departs, its deck packed with passengers and freight, for some coral islet far down the chain toward Haiti.

These vessels carry no charts, no compasses, and no auxiliary engines, yet few of them come to grief, for the Bahaman is at home in his reef-filled azure seas. They tell and believe a story about an old sea pilot, grown blind, who could stick his finger in the water and tell precisely where his boat lay.'

Lyrics:
THE JOHN B's SAILS

[D] We come on the sloop John B,
my Grandfather and me.
Around Nassau town we did [A7] roam.
Drinkin' all [D] night.
Got into a [G] – [Em] fight.
Well, I [D] feel so break up, [A7] I want to go [D] home.

Chorus:
Hoist up the John B's sails.
See how the main sails set.
Call for the captain ashore, let me go home.
Let me go home.
I want to go home.
Well, I feel so break up, I want to go home.

First mate, he got drunk.
Broke up the people's trunk.
Constable had to come and take him away.
Sheriff John Stone,
why don't you leave me alone?
Well, I feel so break up, I want to go home.

Chorus

Well, the poor cook he caught the fits.
Throw away all of my grits.
Then he took and he ate up all of my corn.
Let me go home.
I want to go home.
This is the worst trip since I've been born.

Chorus

Spanish Ladies


h1 Friday, October 1st, 2004

Argonaut.jpg

This song gives a vivid picture of the sailing ships in the English Channel. The 'Grand Fleet' was an old name for the Channel Fleet. 'Deadman' and 'Fairlee' are sea names for Dodman Point near Plymouth and Fairlight Hill near Hastings, and Ushant is the Ile d'Ouessant off Brest in France. Source: http://ingeb.org/folksong.html
Lyrics:
[Em] Farewell and adieu unto [G] you Spanish [D] ladies,
[Em] Farewell and adieu to you [G] ladies of [D] Spain;
[Em] For it's we've received [D] orders for to [C] sail for old [Em] England,
[Em] But we hope very [D] soon we shall [C] see you [Em] again.

Then we hove our ship to the wind at sou'-west, my boys,
We hove our ship to our soundings for to see;
So we rounded and sounded, and got forty-five fathoms,
We squared our main yard, up channel steered we.

Now the first land we made it is called the Deadman,
Then Ram Head off Plymouth, Start, Portland and Wight;
We sailed by Beachy, by Fairlee and Dungeness,
Until we came abreast of the South Foreland Light.

We'll rant and we'll roar like true British sailors,
We'll rant and we'll roar across the salt seas,
Until we strike soundings in the Channel of old England,
From Ushant to Scilly is thirty-five leagues.

Then the signal was made for the grand fleet for to anchor,
All in the downs that night for to meet;
Then it's stand by your stoppers, see clear your shank-painters,
Haul all your clew garnets, stick out tacks and sheets.

We'll rant and we'll roar like true British sailors,
We'll rant and we'll roar across the salt seas,
Until we strike soundings in the Channel of old England,
From Ushant to Scilly is thirty-five leagues.

Now let every man toss off a full bumper,
And let every man toss off a full bowl;
And we'll drink and be merry and drown melancholy,
Singing, here's a good health to all true-hearted souls.

We'll rant and we'll roar like true British sailors,
We'll rant and we'll roar across the salt seas,
Until we strike soundings in the Channel of old England,
From Ushant to Scilly is thirty-five leagues.

Haul Away Joe


h1 Sunday, August 1st, 2004

Sailor.jpg

This is a tack and sheet, short haul chantey. There are many verses and it may have been used as a halyard chantey as well. Sheet chanties were usually no longer than three or four verses. Sometimes the word 'pull' or 'haul' was used instead of Joe.

Although the chantey was known earlier among British sailors, it was not well-known on Yankee ships until the period between 1812 and the Civil War. It was obviously sung after the French Revolution.

Lyrics:
[Am] When I was a [Em] little lad
And [Dm] so my mother [Em] told me,
[Am] Way, haul [Em] away, we'll [Dm] haul [E] away, [Am] Joe!
[Am] That if I did not [Em] kiss the gals
Me [Dm] lips would all grow [Em] moldy.
[Am] Way, haul [Em] away, we'll [Dm] haul [E] away, [Am] Joe!

Way, haul away, the good ship is a-bolding,
Way, haul away, we'll haul away, Joe!
Way, haul away, the sheet is now unfold-ing,
Way, haul away, we'll haul away, Joe!

King Louis was the king of France
Before the revolution…
Way, haul away, we'll haul away, Joe!
But then he got his head cut off
Which spoiled his constitution…
Way, haul away, we'll haul away, Joe!

Way, haul away, we'll haul for better weather…
Way, haul away, we'll haul away, Joe!
Way haul away, we'll haul away together
Way, haul away, we'll haul away, Joe!

The cook is in the galley boys
Making duff so handy
Way, haul away, we'll haul away, Joe!
The captain's in his cabin lads
Drinking wine and brandy
Way, haul away, we'll haul away, Joe!

Way, haul away, I'll sing to you of Nancy…
Way, haul away, we'll haul away, Joe!
Way, haul away, she's just my cut and fancy…
Way, haul away, we'll haul away, Joe!

Way, haul away, we'll haul for better weather…
Way, haul away, we'll haul away, Joe!
Way haul away, we'll haul away together
Way, haul away, we'll haul away, Joe!

Drunken Sailor


h1 Monday, March 1st, 2004

Argonaut.jpg

This song is well known on both sides of the Atlantic, used on sailing ships as a short haul as well as a forcastle (fo'c'sle) shanty.
Lyrics:
[Dm] What shall we do with a drunken sailor
[C] What shall we do with a drunken sailor
[Dm] What shall we do with a drunken sailor
Earl-eye in the morning!

Chorus:
[Dm] Way hay and up she rises
[C] Way hay and up she rises
[Dm] Way hay and up she rises
[Dm] Earl-eye [C] in the [Dm] morning

Put him in a long-boat till he's sober (X3)
Earl-eye in the morning!

Pull out the plug and wet him all over (X3)
Earl-eye in the morning!

Put him in the bilge and make him drink it (X3)
Earl-eye in the morning!

Shave his belly with a rusty razor (X3)
Earl-eye in the morning!

Heave him by the leg with a running bowline (X3)
Earl-eye in the morning!

Keel haul him untill he gets sober. (X3)
Earl-eye in the morning!

That's what we do with the drunken sailor (X3)

Way hay and up she rises
Way hay and up she rises
Way hay and up she rises
Earl-eye in the morning (X3)

Heave Away


h1 Saturday, November 1st, 2003

Green3.jpg

This is a sea chantey that I have always loved. I recorded it on my first solo album for Columbia Records 'Roger McGuinn.'

Spanky McFarlane sang harmony on the original recording.

Lyrics:
[G] There's some that's [Am] bound for [C] New York Town
And other's is bound for [G] France
Heave [D] away me [G] Johnnies,
Heave [D] away [G]

And [C] some is bound for the [G] Bengal bay
To [Am] teach them whales a [G] dance
And away me Johnnie [C] boys
We're [G] all [D] bound to [G] go

Our pilot is a-waiting for
The turning of the tide
Heave away me johnnies,
Heave away

And one more pull and we're bound away
With a good and westerly wind
And away me Johnnie boys
We're all bound away

Farewell to you dear Kingston gals
Farewell to St. Andrew's Dock
Heave away me Johnnies,
Heave away

If ever we should come back again
We'll make your cradles rock
And away me Johnnie boys
We're all bound away

There's some that's bound for New York Town
And other's is bound for France
Heave away me Johnnies,
Heave away

And some is bound for the Bengal bay
To teach them whales a dance
And away me Johnnie boys
We're all bound to go

Shenandoah


h1 Tuesday, September 2nd, 2003

Shenandoah.jpg

This was a sea chantey, used with the windlass, and the capstan.The lead man would sing the first and third lines of each verse and the crew would sing on the second and fourth lines, as they did their work, with winches for loading cargo, raising sails, pulling up anchors, and other jobs on deck.

Some believe the song originated among the early American river men, or Canadian voyageurs. Others believe it was a land song before it went to sea. Most agree that it incorporates both Irish and African-American elements.

Shenandoah was tremendously popular both on land and sea and was known by countless names, including: Shennydore, The Wide Missouri, The Wild Mizzourye, The World Of Misery-Solid Fas (a West Indian rowing shanty that may be older than other versions), The Oceanida, and Rolling River.

Two verses of the song were published in an article by W. J. Alden in Harper's Magazine (1882). A version of Solid Fa's was collected by R. Abrams in England in 1909. The shanty is said to date at least to the 1820s.

Shenandoah was an Indian chief living on the Missouri River.

Thanks to Lesley Nelson for this information. http://www.contemplator.com/folk.html

Lyrics:
[E] Oh Shenandoah, I love your daughter
[A] Way-aye, you rolling [E] river
I'll [C#m] take her 'cross yon rolling [E] water
[E] A way – we're bound away
'cross the [B7] wide [E] Missouri!

The Chief disdained the trader's dollars,
Way-aye, you rolling river
My daughter you shall never follow
A way – we're bound away
'cross the wide Missouri!

For seven years I courted Sally,
Way-aye, you rolling river
For seven more I longed to have her
A way – we're bound away
'cross the wide Missouri!

She said she would not be my lover
Way-aye, you rolling river
Because I was a tarry sailor
A way – we're bound away
'cross the wide Missouri!

At last there came a Yankee skipper
Way-aye, you rolling river
He winked his eye, and he tipped his flipper
A way – we're bound away
'cross the wide Missouri!

He sold the Chief that fire-water
Way-aye, you rolling river
And 'cross the river he stole his daughter
A way – we're bound away
'cross the wide Missouri!

Oh Shenandoah, I love your daughter
Way-aye, you rolling river
I'll take her 'cross yon rolling water
A way – we're bound away
'cross the wide Missour

Squid-Jigging Ground


h1 Sunday, June 1st, 2003
This squid catching song originated in Newfoundland, though the names of the places have changed due to the folk process.My wife Camilla and I love to taste and compare crispy calamari at restaurants around the world. She always asks “where do they get all this squid”? A fair question, considering the enormous amount of calamari consumed worldwide each day. I did some research to find out more about where squid come from and how to jig for squid. A preferred method of catching squid is trawling with a jig or lure. This method mimics a live lone prawn traveling through the water with an erratic movement, which creates a realistic impression of a terrified and panic ridden prey. It’s an easy effect to accomplish. Attach the lure to the end of the line using the usual method, and also attach a small weight near the swivel to keep the lure low in the water. Cast out as far as possible, and, depending on the water depth, begin reeling at a constant speed. Keep in mind you are trying to keep the prawn at a constant height of about two feet above the sea bed or sea grass, so time your reeling accordingly. Straight forward reeling won’t create a realistic effect of a panicky prawn, so occasionally sharply draw the rod upward, so the prawn shoots forward toward the surface of the water by about three feet. Then slack off reeling until the prawn reaches the depth at which it was previously traveling. Repeat randomly during reeling, but not too frequently or the squid will lose interest. Note that the squid will usually strike when the jig is falling back to its previous depth. This is due to the reduced speed and less threatening composure of the prawn. If you see squid following the lure when drawing in line close, on the next cast, trawl more slowly than before, as a not so hungry squid will not take a chance on a fast moving piece of prey, easier prey is more appealing. Don’t reel in too fast or you’ll just get a squid leg and not the whole squid. Pink lures work the best. Be careful when taking the squid out of the water, they bite, and have lots of black ink that they squirt to conceal themselves while under water. Using a net to take them off the lure is the safest way to insure that you won’t lose the squid.
Lyrics:
[D] Oh, this is the place where the fishermen gather,With [G] oilskins and [D] boots and Cape Anns [Em] battened down;

[G] All sizes and figures with [D] squid lines and jiggers,

They congregate here on the [A] squid-jigging [D] ground.

Some are workin’ their jiggers while others are yarnin’,

There’s some standin’ up and there’s more lyin’ down;

While all kinds of fun, jokes and tricks are begun

As they wait for the squid on the squid-jiggin’ ground.

There’s men from Bar Harbour and men from the Tickle,

In all kinds of motorboats, green, grey and brown;

There’s a red headed Tory out here in a dory

Running down Squires on the squid-jiggin’ ground.

The man with the whiskers is old Jacob Steele;

He’s gettin well up but he’s still pretty sound.

While Uncle Bob Hawkins wears three pair o’ stockin’s

Whenever he’s out on the squid-jiggin’ ground.

God bless my sou’wester, there’s Skipper John Cheeby,

He’s the best hand at squid-jiggin’ here, I’ll be bound.

Hello! What’s the row? He’s jiggin’ one now,

The very first squid on the squid-jiggin’ ground.

Holy smoke! What a bustle! All hands are excited.

It’s a wonder to me that nobody is drowned.

There’s a bustle, confusion, a wonderful hustle,

They’re all jiggin’ squid on the squid-jiggin’ ground.

There’s poor Uncle Billy, his whiskers are spattered

With spots of the squid juice that’s flying around;

One poor little boy got it right in the eye,

But they don’t give a hang on the squid-jiggin’ ground.

Says Bobby, “The squid are on top of the water,

I just got me jigger ’bout one fathom down” —

When a squid in the boat squirted right down his throat,

And he’s swearin’ like mad on the squid-jiggin’ ground.

If you ever feel inclined to go squiddin’,

Leave your white shirts and collars behind in the town.

And if you get cranky without your silk hanky

You’d better steer clear of the squid-jiggin’ ground.

Oh, this is the place where the fishermen gather,

With oilskins and boots and Cape Anns battened down;

All sizes and figures with squid lines and jiggers,

They congregate here on the squid-jigging ground.

Michael Row the Boat Ashore


h1 Wednesday, May 1st, 2002

Michael.gif

The Georgia Sea Islands is a section of the United States rich in African American folk song. For over a hundred miles, these low flat islands decorate the Atlantic Coast. Here's where slaves were brought fresh from Africa and for generations, spent their entire lives out of touch with the mainland.

In olden days, transportation to the mainland was provided by small boats and strong arms to row them. The oar crews from different plantations prided themselves on their singing, each making up new songs that no other boat would ever sing.

Two of the best known songs whose roots are in this tradition of Georgia Sea Island singing are 'Michael Row the Boat Ashore' and the more recent, 'Pay Me My Money Down.' I learned this song at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago when I was 15 years old. It's been one of my favorite songs ever since.

Lyrics:
[D] Michael row the boat ashore, [G] hallelujah [D]
[D] Michael [F#m] row the boat [Em] ashore, [D] halle [A] lu [D] jah

Sister help to trim the sails, hallelujah
Sister help to trim the sails, hallelujah

Jordan's River is deep and wide, hallelujah
And I've got a home on the other side, hallelujah

Jordan River is chilly and cold, hallelujah
Chills the body but not the soul, hallelujah

When I get to Heaven I'm gonna' sing and shout, hallelujah
Nobody there's gonna' kick me out, hallelujah

Michael row the boat ashore, hallelujah
Michael row the boat ashore, hallelujah

Michael's boat is a music boat, hallelujah
Michael's boat is a music boat, hallelujah

Michael row the boat ashore, hallelujah
Michael row the boat ashore, hallelujah

The trumpets sound the Jubilee, hallelujah
The trumpets sound for you and me, hallelujah

Michael row the boat ashore, hallelujah
Michael row the boat ashore, hallelujah
Michael row the boat ashore, hallelujah
Michael row the boat ashore, hallelujah

Water is Wide, The


h1 Friday, June 1st, 2001

Water.jpg

I remember going to see Pete Seeger in concert at Orchestra Hall in Chicago many times in my teen years. His 12-string guitar was always tuned down so that the bass notes were big and round, filling the hall as would a string quartet. His voice was clear, full of emotion and youthful exuberance. That was the first time I heard The Water Is Wide. Now I'm on concert tour in England. I decided to recorded this song live at the Jazz Café in London.
Lyrics:
D

The water is wide

G D

I cannot cross over

Bm

And neither have

A7

I wings to fly

D F#m

Build me a boat

G

That will carry two

A7

And both shall roam

D

My Love and I

A ship there is

And she sails the sea

Sailing as deep

As deep can be

But not so deep

As the love I'm in

And I know not

How I sink or swim

I leaned my back

Against some young oak

Thinking she was

A trusty tree

But first she bent

And then she broke

And thus did my

False love to me

The water is wide

I cannot cross over

And neither have

I wings to fly

Build me aboat

That will carry two

And both shall roam

My Love and I

Catch The Greenland Whale


h1 Thursday, March 1st, 2001

I first heard this song on a whaling album. I've tried to keep as close to the original as possible, including the key and tempo.

The banjo is tuned in an open Dm tuning, and the 12-string is playing melody. It's all in Dm.

Lyrics:
On the [Am] twenty-third of [Em] March, my boys,
We [Am] hoisted our [Em] topsail,
Crying, [Am] 'Heav'n above [Em] protect us
With a sweet and a [D] pleasant [Em] gale.'
We never was down-[Am] hearted
Nor let our courage [Em] fail
But [Am] bore away up to [Em] Greenland
For to catch the [D] Greenland [Em] whale,
For to catch the [D] Greenland [Em] whale.

And when we came to Greenland
Where the bitter winds did blow,
We tacked about all in the north
Among the frost and snow.
Our finger-tops were frozen off,
And likewise our toe-nails,
As we crawled on the deck, my boys,
Looking out for the Greenland whale
Looking out for the Greenland whale.

And when we came to Davis Strait
Where the mountains flowed with snow,
We tacked about all in the north
Till we heard the whalefish blow.
And when we catch that whale, brave boys,
Homeward we will steer.
We'll make them valleys ring, my boys,
A-drinking of strong beer.
We'll make them lofty alehouses
In London town to roar;
And when our money is all gone,
To Greenland go for more,
To Greenland go for more.