Thursday, 4 April 2013
Ashore, Mate . . .
It's interesting after all these years to be living on an island, a concept that has previously only existed for me in a literary sense, culled from favourite childhood books. The Island of Adventure. Anne of the Island. Treasure Island. It's not a constant awareness - Great Britian is quite a large island after all - but it doesn't take too long from any point on it to reach the sea, or at least a sea view; its proximity still shocks me at times. And that's something quite different from living in a big city on the shores of Lake Ontario. For one thing, there are tides and many places where one really does have to pay attention to them. And as I continue to explore Liverpool and its rich maritime history, I'm slowly starting to get my cultural sea legs and actually feel an affinity for this powerful and picturesque force that surrounds me and has been such an important influence on the people and artists who live here. Who doesn't like to be beside the seaside?
So I very much enjoyed a recent concert by June Tabor at the Capstone Theatre. I was introduced to her by a friend and former book rep who took long road trips and subsequently always had interesting music in his car. On his recommendation I bought a couple of her CDs, both solo stuff and her work with the Oysterband and really loved her deep and haunting voice and the choice of material; very evocative storytelling, including many songs about the First World War. She has twice been named Folk Singer of the Year by BBC2 Radio. She performed many songs from her latest CD, Ashore and after proclaiming her fascination - shared by many Brits - for the radio's shipping forecast (an institution of sorts), she said she wanted to record traditional songs from all parts of the UK, dealing with many different aspects of a sailor's life. There were songs about going off to enlist in the navy, ending your navy career and saying goodbye to the ship and even cannibalism at sea - a witty song from the Channel Islands, sung in French as the French sailors apply a rich butter sauce to their human roast. She was accompanied by a simple but effective three man band consisting of a pianist, violinist, and accordionist who contribute their own instrumental shanty. The CD is really beautiful to listen to, a combination of catchy tunes and poignant, sad tales from several different centuries.