‘Written in Salt’ from The Longest Johns “... boundless energy, enthusiasm and faultless harmonies(September 09, 2016)
Shanty singing is rarely regarded as ‘middle of the road’, it’s either loved or hated, which is a shame because it’s a long-time staple of English folk tradition, yet it appears to remain something of a niche appreciation although for those shanty groups that have a burgeoning following there’s little to worry about. Groups like the Longest Johns, the five-man Bristol-based a-capella shanty group have forged a reputation singing self-penned and traditional folk songs and shanties, and now with their debut album ‘Written in Salt’ deliver shanty singing with boundless energy, enthusiasm and faultless harmonies.
Reviewing their EP, ‘Bones of the Ocean’ long ago in 2013 I stated that: “... from tenor-top to bass-bottom their songs are wholly additive.” And with ‘Written in Salt’ I’m given no reason to change my mind. This is shanty singing of the highest calibre, due deference paid to the depths of tradition combined with a fearlessness to innovate and progress. From self-penned pieces like ‘Barge Ballad’, ‘John Paul Jones is a Pirate’ and ‘All at Sea’ to traditionals such as ‘Eliza Lee’, ‘Old Maui’ and a wonderfully embellished ‘Drunken Sailor’ there’s everything lovers of the shanty form would expect and more. For good measure there’s an instrumental, ‘The Anne Louise’ and a recitation of considerable sideways humour with ‘All At Sea’.
The Longest Johns are Andy Yates, Josh Bowker, Johnathan Darley, Robbie Satin and Dave Robinson ... and for shanties from rip-roaring through tender to yearning, you’ll find it hard to hear better.
You can find The Longest Johns here: www.thelongestjohns.com
Review: Tim Carroll