As a founder member of one the Westcountry's best known shanty crews, Hanging Johnny", who have been singing "authentic" versions of these wonderful sailor's songs for some 15 years, with numerous recordings and appearances throughout Europe to our name, I suppose I could be labelled a "purist" and, having read some of the reviews for this collection, particularly on Amazon.com, might be expected to write a review full of bile and venom, bemoaning the apalling treatment given to such revered and delicate jewels as these 43 songs. However, with one or two notable exceptions, I have to say that I have rarely enjoyed a collection more! Yes there are a couple of dreadful renditions, but the vast majority of tracks are stunning interpretations of songs, all too frequently preserved in aspic and given the "precious" treatment. The opening track "South Australia" is a tour de force where spirit and sheer inventiveness rule and set the tone for the rest of the album. How grand to hear "Good Ship Venus" in all her unexpurgated glory, sung so well by Loudon WainwrightIII with such excellent backing. I am an old-school shantyman, but I take my hat off to these guys; forget purism, forget cardboard cut-out pirates; get this album because of its integrity, and because it has the guts to dare to be different in a bland and boring world -pure entertainment- Stan Hugill would have loved it.
Simon Isserlis -Hanging Johnny