John Roberts

Sea Fever

Playlist   |   Technical Info   |   Song Notes   |   Order

1.Sea Fever3:05 WAV-MP3
2.Campañero3:00 WAV-MP3
3.Diego's Bold Shore5:27 WAV-MP3
4.The Bonny Ship the Diamond3:00 WAV-MP3
5.Candlelight Fisherman2:41 WAV-MP3
6.Farewell Nancy2:10 WAV-MP3
7.The Weeping Willow Tree6:23 WAV-MP3
8.The Boatman's Cure4:59 WAV-MP3
9.Short Jacket and White Trousers2:21 WAV-MP3
10.Sir Patrick Spens4:43 WAV-MP3
11.Let the Bulgine Run/Sally in the Garden/Hog-Eye Man5:51 WAV-MP3
12.The Black Cook4:14 WAV-MP3
13.The Saucy Sailor2:08 WAV-MP3
14.The Old Figurehead Carver4:43 WAV-MP3
15.What Fortunes Guide a Sailor/Leave Her Johnny6:59 WAV-MP3
Total Running Time61:44
Lyrics for each song can be accessed by following the links in the playlist above.


Cover Art: Three Master in Rough Seas by Fitz Henry Lane, Cape Ann Historical Museum
Design: Roger Mock
Photo: Bill Spence
Recorded by Donald Person at Windy Acres and Studio 14
Mixed by Donald Person, Lisa Preston & John Roberts
Produced by John Roberts

John Roberts, vocals, concertina & banjo
Mary Lea, violin & viola
Lisa Preston, harp
Ray Wall, whistle
©2003 Golden Hind Music


Sea Fever is the famous poem by John Masefield set to music by Andy Taylor. I learned it from Ed Trickett and Harry Tuft who recorded it in the early 1970s. This version of The Campañero is a little different from the one popularized by Stan Hugill — I learned it from Ewan MacColl. I first heard Diego's Bold Shore sung by Eliza Carthy in concert at the New Bedford Whaling Museum. Later I found out that it is in Gale Huntington's book Songs the Whalemen Sang. How could I have missed it? The Bonny Ship the Diamond is another whaling song, this time from Scotland. This version was popularized by singer, author and folklorist A. L. Lloyd, who collected it in Liverpool in 1937. Candlelight Fisherman comes from Bob Roberts, master of the Cambria, the last of the Thames sailing barges. He had a great repertoire of sea songs, many of them humorous, and a lot of them have become staples of the folk clubs. Cecil Sharp collected Farewell Nancy in Somerset in 1905; again, A. L. Lloyd, one of several singers who recorded versions of it, seems to have had a hand in "folk-processing" the lyrics.

The Weeping Willow Tree was given to the Vermont collector Helen Hartness Flanders by Lena Bourne "Grammy" Fish of E. Jaffrey, NH. Since this version of The Golden Vanity has a twist in the tail, folklorists have suggested that Mrs. Fish rewrote the ending. I learned it from my dear friend the late Margaret MacArthur of Marlboro, VT. My friend and neighbor George Ward wrote The Boatman's Cure, based on research he did on the history of the "bateau," the vessel used along the Mohawk River for exploration and trade in the 18th century. Short Jacket and White Trousers is another song from the repertoire of A. L. Lloyd; I don't know his source. I learned Nic Jones' version of Sir Patrick Spens quite a few years ago when I was asked to sing some ballad examples in an English class at Union College. It lay dormant for a while, but I gradually started wondering if I could work out a concertina arrangement for it.

Let the Bulgine Run and Hog-Eye Man are the first real chanteys presented here, though they are obviously not sung as work songs. They are both well-known, and I link them with an old fiddle tune called Sally in the Garden, inspired by some of the lyrics in the second chantey. My long-time singing partner Tony Barrand recorded The Black Cook on one of our early albums. It's a collation of Newfoundland and Pennsylvania variants. Since I hadn't heard him sing it in a good while, I thought I might borrow it. Frankie Armstrong and Maddy Prior both recorded The Saucy Sailor, adapting a Somerset tune collected by Sharp. Mine is a variant of a different tune family from the same collection.

The Old Figurehead Carver started out as a poem by Hiram Cody of Fredericton, New Brunswick, referring to the famous clipper Marco Polo launched in 1851 in nearby Saint John. My friend Dick Swain gave the poem a tune and added a marvelous chorus. Another friend, Gina Dunlap, took the well-known song How Can I Keep From Singing, and wrote a new set of verses on a whaling theme: What Fortunes Guide a Sailor. I segue from this to Leave Her Johnny, another popular chantey often sung round the capstan at the end of the voyage.

© Golden Hind Music