Futtock Shrouds is the second album and first full length album by She Shanties. Formed in 2011, She Shanties perform all over the UK and Europe and are an all female a capella group. As they put it, “we’re women, we sing shanties”. Now many may be wondering about the album title but it is most appropriate for an album involving shanties and songs of the sea. Futtock Shrouds are rope, wire or chain links in a traditional square rigged ship under the crow’s nest. So already this album is more educational than most; it’s always good to learn something new every day.
We begin the album with “Whiskey Johnny” and you’re immediately hit with the precise harmony the band has. Solo during the verses and full group during chorus, does give it a crew kind of feel to the song. Now I hear the Pride O’ Bedlam version so it’s welcome to hear a different take on it. I really enjoy the end of the song about coming back for more.
“The Light From the Lighthouse” follows in the same style as “Johnny”, with a soloist and then the entire group. This rendition feels almost like a gospel version of the song, which I am really digging. There are some interesting things going on during the all, some highs and lows that are all evident that really gives the song a lot of range. The mixing of the song has to be commended, one of the best I’ve heard in an a capella recording. LOVE this rendition, may very well be my favorite version of this song.
Up next we have “Noah’s Ark” and it immediately has the band living up to their name. This absolutely sounds like an old sea shanty. We also have a third different soloist I think and that’s always a welcome sight to me when a band is able to spread the heavy lifting around. Not only that but that each one is stout at the task and brings a different element to each song. Maybe it was just the title, but I was not expecting to having such a strong reaction to this song.
“Shenandoah” for some reason took me immediately to some Clann An Drumma songs. I’m just gonna assume it’s the accent, but it is really working on this song. Maybe a bit too slow for the fourth song in the album, but that’s personal taste. This is a fantastically diverse song that is taking my ears all over the place in the best way possible.
Now “Ben Backstay” could easily be found in the Musical Blades or The Jolly Rogers. The story of a bo’sun that could easily be turned into a bawdy song since it’s already borderline there. A fun little number that keeps that strong shanty feeling, which I am enjoying. It’s not just the well known sea shanties, the ladies are pulling from all over and it’s really appreciated. The highlight of the song for me is the always take it neat towards the end of the song.
“One More Day” is a song we are familiar with here in the states and this rendition has their own touch on it. The chorus is how we are used to hearing the song but the deeper soloist is unexpected at first. The chorus singing is at the same level of “Lighthouse”; in fact this also has the gospel feel to it. I think I would see the audience sing along with this song.
There are similarities often between railroad and sea shanties and “Hog-Eye Man” is a great example of that. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of this song but I am really digging it. It brings me a bit to “Rattlin Bog” but I’m not quite sure why. Again, like “Ark”, I’m surprised by how much I enjoyed this song.
“Waiting for the Day” has lyrics that almost everyone can relate to. I can already see this song being a huge audience favorite based on the subject matter alone. The fact that it sounds absolutely stunning is an added bonus. It just goes to show how people haven’t changed all that much over the centuries as this song could have been written this year. “Lighthouse” now has a challenger for favorite song on this album.
Maybe the most known traditional song on the album, “Sugar In The Hold” knocks your socks off with that first chorus. We often make the turn it to 11 jokes when we play pirate-core songs, but these ladies turn it to 11 on the chorus. I would put this against any version of “Sugar” and once again I find myself with maybe a new favorite of the song. This following “Day” and “Hog-Eye” it appears She Shanties have found their stride on the album.
“Bound Down Trinidad” is another shanty I am not familiar with and to be honest that makes me sad. I again find myself taken to church but not so much gospel. No this feels much more, Gregorian Chant, if that makes sense. The deep harmony they achieve is touching me down in the cockles of my heart. Nothing against the soloist but I almost want the entire song nothing but the harmony, I’m enjoying it that much.
I misspoke earlier, “Bully in the Alley” is the most well known Shanty on this album and they definitely do it justice. Already this song has more energy to it than I find in most renditions. Again we find multiple things going on in the chorus that takes the song to a whole different level. How they are able to get this level of melody with just singing is fantastic.
We end with the appropriately named “The Farewell Shanty” and what a glorious end. Listening to it I am actually sad I’ll likely never get to hear this at the end of a faire day, as it would be such an end. Not a sing along like “Health to the Company”, but still touching you deep down in your soul. Much like Ye Banished Privateers and Pat Razket ended their albums with the exact right song so have She Shanties.
At the Inn we only really have one other true a capella group, and they're all men. She Shanties, with this album, have marked their spot as the premier a capella women’s shanty group in the world. I didn’t necessarily consider myself a huge a capella fan but this album very well may have me rethinking that statement. This album has proven these ladies are masters of their craft and keep the shanty tradition alive and well. If you get a chance make sure to catch them live as I expect it’s a wondrous event to behold.
A female shanty crew? Yea, verily! … Though She Shanties are a bit different – 12 women who came together almost by accident at Whitby in 2011, quickly discovered the vital spark of kinship and that they sounded good together (and almost instinctively so). Since then, they’ve evolved into a veritable folk-family and graced numerous festival stages, releasing a toes-in-the-water EP in 2015 to enthusiastic reviews (including mine in this mag!). This follow-up fuller-length offering shows how accomplished the ensemble has become, a punchy, full-on chorale of glorious parts, harmonies and unison that’s thoroughly infectious – arranged, yes (to a certain extent), but never ‘polite’.
She Shanties include in their ample ranks no fewer than three sets of sisters, while some members’ names (Cath Tyler, Rachel Hamer, Ruth & Sadie Price) you’ll definitely have come across in other folk contexts. All are singers of individual character, and the shantyman’s duty is invariably shared out equitably, receiving lusty and charismatic crew support. (Crew members are named on the package, but it would’ve been good to have identified individual track leaders too.) Naturally, the disc’s title is suitably racy (like the Spanker Boom EP – no giggling at the back there!), and She Shanties again seem to have struck that enviable balance between committed and respectful performance and having a whale of a time (i.e. massive fun) while completely engaging their listeners. The 12 tracks on this CD cover the gamut of favourite shanties and songs of the sea, all sung out with abundant gusto and brio. What’s not to like?
She Shanties’ first full length album is a carefully curated sea shanty collection. Keeping production at a minimum, the She Shanties sing without accompaniment in the traditional call and response format.
To say that the She Shanties stand out as an all female shanty group is to state the obvious, but their northern accents also stand out in a genre dominated by a certain Cornish shanty group. Comparison with Port Isaac’s Fisherman’s Friends is inevitable; the She Shanties, singing accompanied, have an unembellished and clean sound. Their less dramatic approach lets the lyrics stand center stage and their subjects feel accessible. The songs are nurtured and emotionally loaded.
Not that this should suggest that the Sea Shanties sing without imagination. One More Day is performed and stylized with enough theatrics to make it interesting without becoming too much. Songs such as One More Day and Hog-Eye Man maintain that industourous work song rhythm at the core of so many sea shanties. If those are the work hard songs, Whisky Johnny and Wait for the Day, namely payday, are the play hard songs.
Tracks such as Shenandoah, Sugar in the Hold, and Bully in the Alley, are descriptive of a sailor’s life and dreams. Finally there are a few jokers, The Light from the Lighthouse, has an obvious nautical theme, but musically and thematically - being lost and guided home by the light - it has the distinct characteristics of its gospel source material. Conversely, Noah’s Ark has no gospel message and instead provides the origin story of the dog’s wet nose.
She Shanties deserve some special recognition for their sleeve notes which are informative while perfectly efficient. In this sense the sleeve notes exemplify Futtock Shrouds: pleasant, without pretense and true to the source material.
Excerpt from a review by Tony Birch on the fatea Magazine website.
The She Shanties … A no-nonsense group, they introduce themselves in a wonderfully direct style, 'We're women, We sing shanties' and they do it very well indeed. There are twelve in the line-up and they're each a good singer in their own right. … the result is an album of real quality where every voice can be separately heard and the lyrics are crystal clear.
Futtock Shrouds is their first full album … wonderful … fast paced tunes … balanced out by some more considered songs.
This is an album that everyone who enjoys well presented traditional music should get hold of and it deserves to be widely heard. It's now released and available through the website but if you get the chance buy it at a show or festival after seeing The She Shanties.
Read the full review on the fatea web site.
Review by Richard Catton for Summer 2018 edition of EDS (The EFDSS magazine).
This is what folk is all about - a group of women with a shared passion for singing and songs, getting together to make music with their voices and have some fun.
The delightfully named Futtock Shrouds is the first full-length release from the 12-strong She Shanties who, in their own words "got together in Whitby in 2011 for a bit of a sing but realised we had something special".
The girls have done their research and hauled up a nice selection of shanties and work songs from both sides of the Atlantic, each delivered by a rotating roster of lead vocalists while the others add harmony.
By its own admission the group doesn't get together too often to rehearse and the delivery is by no means tight. But these are great songs (the tale of a drunken sailor decapitated by hungry shark made me laugh out loud) and I suggest that if you're organising a singaround by the sea this summer you should reserve a dozen seats for these grog-swigging gals.