- “Rio Grande”
- “Blood-Red Roses”
- “Drinking That Wine”
- “Nelson’s Blood”
- “Spanish Ladies”
- “Bully in the Alley”
- “Blackbird Get Up”
- “John Kanaka”
- “Blow the Man Down”
- “Highland Laddie”
- “Paddy Lay Back”
- “Help Me to Raise ’Em”
- “South Australia”
- “Leave Her, Johnny”
- Preview or buy Shower Chanteys at Bandcamp
- Shower Chanteys releases at MusicBrainz
This album grew out of… well, first it grew out of years of singing chanteys and, even before that, singing in the shower. Bathrooms have great acoustics, and shower singing is a great way to practice.
In 2014, my friend Nick Noble, host of “The Folk Revival” on WICN-FM in Worcester, Mass., U.S.A., wanted to do a show consisting entirely of music from his show’s listeners. I banged out a few tracks in my bathroom in Urbana, Ill., U.S.A., in a a little bit of a hurry. It was OK—good enough for that radio show—but not great. The quality is uneven, and the pitch shifts noticeably over the course of “Nelson’s Blood.”
So I kept the original idea of doing an entire album with just my voice, with multi-tracked harmony, and a shower theme, but went to a real studio to record it. There was no question where to go; Jim Prendergast has recorded nearly all of the traditional musicians in the Portsmouth, N.H., U.S.A. area and many others throughout New England.
About the Content
Chanteys are the work-songs of sailors and workers on the docks and rivers. Sometimes people use the word “chantey” (or the British spelling “shanty”) to mean any sea song, but strictly, the chanteys were used only for work. The etymology of “chantey” is ambiguous; the earliest references in English refer to a “chant,” and a “chanty-man” leading the chant. Wikipedia has a pretty good article on the subject.
The songs are on this album are traditional… ish. They are all a cappella, as chanteys generally were; the chanteyman is usually part of the working crew, and can’t hold an instrument while working! There are a few exceptions, but if a fiddler was sitting on the capstan to coördinate that work, the fiddle tune was usually used instead of a song. The tempos are generally task-appropriate, to my best estimation.
That said, I did try to make them pleasant to listen to, as well. The harmonies would not generally be found on board a ship, and the strain of working, while it lends a certain authenticity to the sound, tends to take away from the musicality a bit. One exception would be the menhaden net-hauling chanteys (“Drinking That Wine” and “Help Me to Raise ’Em”)—if anything, there should be more harmony lines there, but I had to call it good enough at some point. The menhaden fishers would also pause to haul up nets between lines of the song, as opposed to the other chanteys, in which work is done in time with the music.
Credits, as Printed
This was supported by a Kickstarter campaign.
Special thanks to Rose Downes for underwriting a big chunk of the project.
Thanks also to:
- major backers Holly Wilper and Marty Weller;
- super supporters Nick Noble, Ian Hammond-Stark, Sophie Schleicher, and Barb;
- wonderful people Kate O., Anthony Graham, Joyce and Ronnie, Juel Ulven, Tim Loftus, and Bob and Patty;
- all-around great folks Dina Quaas, Lea Mara, Tamson Bill, Michelle L. Imber, Kathy Whisler, John Morris, Ellen Rockett, Colleen Fallaw, Taras Konstantinov, Kyla Mead, Anthony Soskin, Jennifer Strom, Amy & Arne Knudson, Michael Tauber, Sue Hanson, and Laurie Walter;
- cool kids Nancy, Patricia Crebase, Mary, Lynz Morahn, GDC, Star Picucci, Gina Fitzgerald, Ellen Reeve, Jno. Aubrey, Lynn Garren, and Kevin S.;
- making trouble in the back, Dieter, the very first backer, Jodi Longobardo, Jacob Haller, Andrew “The Toddler Wrangler” Stein, Cap’n Suninho, Mr. Tilman, The Anonymous Mouse, Buck Kramer, V Shadow, Jenna, James Gibbons, Coryus & Agarnet, Jay Anderson, Holly Blakemore, Knitmeapony, Kyle Hempel, Justin D., and Eric “Deep Signal” Olive;
- and several other anonymous supporters.
I must also say thanks to Jarrett and Arrr!!! who started me down this road; to Peter, Walt, and the SF chantey crew where I got started; Tom, Barry, and everyone else in Portsmouth, where I expanded; and the Gainesville and Urbana chantey singers who joined in when I was forced to level up in the absence of any organized sings.
Vocals all by Chris Maden. All songs are traditional and in the public domain. Arrangements by Chris Maden, but I disclaim any copyright in them; they are a distillation of my favorite versions that I have heard and sung over the years. The album was recorded and mastered by Jim Prendergast at Mill Pond Music Studio, Portsmouth, N.H., U.S.A. The cover photograph is by Jessica Hekman; all other photos and design by Chris Maden. Thanks to Kickstarter supporter Ellen Rockett for advice on photography and design.
The pirate devil-duck on the cover is from Accoutrements. I don’t remember whether backer A.J. or my old roommate Riley gave me that; one gave me the pirate, while another gave me a ninja devil-duck. The trio of pirate ducks are from my mother-in-law. The toy boat was made by me on my first day as a Mystic Seaport Museum employee. The stuff in my hair is actually Barbasol shaving cream; it turns out that shampoo doesn’t look nearly rich enough when photographed.