Nelson’s Blood

From music @
Jump to: navigation, search
Nelson’s Blood.” Download the PDF, a MIDI rendering, or the LilyPond source and its wrapper file (and see also tunes from LilyPond).

“Nelson’s Blood” is a sea chantey.

Alternate names

  • A Drop of Nelson’s Blood
  • Roll de Ole Chariot Along
  • Roll the Chariot
  • Roll the Old Chariot
  • Roll the Old Chariot Along

External links

Liner Notes (Shower Chanteys)

Nelson’s Blood” is track 5 on Shower Chanteys, recorded 26 February 2018 at Mill Pond Music Studio.[1]

Somewhat surprisingly, while Hugill has a lot to say about the variations recorded, he only gives a single variation,[2] the “wouldn’t do us any harm” verses I use here. The (presumably) older spiritual verses he notes as reported, but doesn’t give. I like to sing them sometimes, but the ones I do here are more common at chantey sings. Hugill notes its use as a revivalist tune, noted in American Negro Folk-Songs, as a corn-shucking or log-rolling song among white people in the Dismal Swamp in North Carolina, and as a baseball pep song at Trinity College. He gives it as a walkaway or stamp-and-go chantey, though I’ve heard it referred to as a capstan chantey, and don’t see why it wouldn’t be—walkaway and capstan chanteys both primarily rely on a march tempo, and the grand chorus here suggests the time-passing extension typical of an anchor-raising chantey. Walkaway chanteys tended not to last very long, as with a large crew continuously hauling the halyard, the yard goes up pretty quick!

To me, this is emblematic of the cultural collision that created chanteys. The “chariot” of the chorus is the same chariot that will swing low and carry us across the River Jordan—clearly of African-American spiritual origin. But the verses (in this version) are so very, very secular and European, and the result is this great singalong mish-mash. Hooray, chanteys!

This is one of the ones that strained my range. The lead is a little higher than I was comfortable with, and the drones on the chorus especially showed it.[3] However, Jim once again rode to the rescue with some studio magic.

Liner Notes (WICN demo)

A Drop of Nelson’s Blood” is track 3 on WICN demo, recorded 26 March 2014 at my home in Urbana, Ill.[4] In a lot of ways, this is the track that convinced me to go to a real studio for Shower Chanteys—the pitch drifts noticeably over the course of the recording, as is evident if you put it on repeat. It was the last track done of that trio, under a little bit of time pressure. I’m not ashamed of it, as such, but I’m not really proud, either.


  1. “Nelson’s Blood,” recording by Chris Maden. MusicBrainz.
  2. Stan Hugill. Shanties from the Seven Seas, pp. 121–123. New U.S. Edition. Mystic, Conn.: Mystic Seaport, 1994.
  3. Chris Maden. “Rough cuts from Monday, and a question for backers,” Kickstarter update. 28 February 2018.
  4. “A Drop of Nelson’s Blood,” recording by Chris Maden. MusicBrainz.