Drinking That Wine
“Drinking That Wine” is a sea chantey.
- Drinking of the Wine
“Drinking That Wine” is a net-hauling chantey, used by menhaden fishermen off the mid-Atlantic North American coast. These fishermen were almost all African-American, and their chanteys generally draw from gospel and from other worksong traditions, including field songs, rail-building songs, and chain-gang songs. The net-hauling chanteys are unusual in that the work is not done while singing—the fishermen will pause between lines to actually haul up a section of net. The song gives a chance to reset their grip, spread the net out, and prepare for the next pull. During the pull, between sung lines, is “chatter”—sometimes encouragement, sometimes trash-talk.
I think I first heard this song from The Johnson Girls; my version is influenced by them, but also the Northern Neck Chantey Singers, a group of men who actually did this work with these songs when they were younger, and other great interpreters of this tradition including Bob Walser and Ken Schatz. I was coming off a cold, and so I got a nice gravelly feel to it.
While this song is attested for use as a net-hauling chantey, there’s really nothing fishing-specific or even ocean-specific about it; it is a straight-up spiritual, that happened to have a good rhythm to use for the task. That’s one of the things I like about chanteys; they can be so amazingly musically diverse.