Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Boats: Barrett's Privateers

Privateer: a private warship authorized by a country's government by letters of marque to attack foreign shipping.

Stan Rogers: Barrett's Privateers


Ontario-based but Maritimer-at-heart master of the sea shanty Stan Rogers has a whole catalog of songs about boats: boats that got wrecked, boats that were beset by pirates, boats that were their captains' folly, and more. Most come across as true mythologies; a good number, in fact, are based enough on true events to have fit our previous theme on History, too.

But Barrett's Privateers is the one which all true folkies know how to sing: just step into the right crowd, bellow "Oh the year was seventeen seventy eight", and you'll get a gleeful shout in three part harmony in return. It's a great feeling, the heart of folk-as-community, to be a part of such a joyous singalong. I've sung it on long car rides, in Unitarian churches, and -- most recently -- in a crowd full of slightly odd hippie-types at a CD release party for one of my favorite folk trios; for a while, "the sherbet song" was my daughter's favorite car cassette, most likely because of how heartily we all sang along when it came to this track. Personally, I've got the bass part covered, but I can do Stan's own baritone in a pinch, and can teach any alto the tenor part if she asks just right.

Rumor has it that Rogers, who died tragically at age 33 in an airplane fire, wrote this one because he was sick of not being able to sing lead on his own songs. Can you hear how happy he sounds to be singing, in this live version from posthumous release Home in Halifax? And the crowd goes wild, too.

Afterword, and bonus tracks: Barrett's Privateers is set as a true shipman's work song -- sans instrumentation, with a hearty bellow that bespeaks rope-hauling and teamwork in its every whoop and holler. But if this is your first taste of the music of Stan Rogers, know that he is often cited as a dominant force in contemporary Canadian folk music; as such, we'd be remiss in not including at least one more shipsong from his catalog, just so can you can hear what he sounds like with full traditional Canadian folk instrumentation: the fiddle, the fast guitar strum, the driving bass undertone.

Here's that taste: another live cut from Home in Halifax, plus a much more bittersweet song about the benefits of staying home instead of seafaring, as covered by another one of my favorite male singer-songwriters, John Gorka.

Stan Rogers: The Mary Ellen Carter

John Gorka: The Lock Keeper


Anonymous said...

relative of stans, garnett rogers is also an accomplished singer songwriter

Cuidado said...

Garnet is his brother and played in his band.