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Sea Chanteys and Maritime Music - JOHNSON GIRLS

Running Down to Cuba
Fire Down Below
Goodby, Fare You Well
Round Cape Horn
Blackbird Get Up
Sailor's Way
Running Down to Cuba
Essequibo River
Bear Away Yankee, Bear away Boy
Fisherman's Lassie
Walk Along Sally Brown
Come Love Come
Huckleberry Hunting
London Julie
Drummer and the Cook
Weary Cutters
Fire Down Below
Yankee Man O' War
Jump, Isabel, Slide Water
Pump Shanty
Fisherman's Wife
Won't You Help Me To Raise 'Em
Goodby, Fare You Well







The five talented Johnson Girls love singing folk tunes together, but let us be more specific‹they love singing authentic a cappella sea chanteys and maritime music. They are a refreshing incongruous part of a traditionally male community of singers who come together at festivals and gatherings to sing the old songs. 20 tunes, some of our favorites: "Round Cape Horn," "Sailor's Way," "Essequibo River," "Fisherman's Lassie," "Come Love Come," the fairly racy "Huckleberry Hunting," "Drummer and the Cook," "Yankee Man o' War," "Jump, Isabel, Slide Water" (a rowing song written by slaves before the Civil War), "Pump Shanty," "Fisherman's Wife" and "Goodbye, Fare You Well." These are heart-tugging songs of the life of the sailor, songs that made his labor seem easier, and helped to ease his
loneliness or a broken heart. The Johnson Girls sing them with conviction, spirit and deep feeling, making us believe that they are the sailor in question, or that he is their lover, son or husband. An impressive, focused first recording by New York City's talented folk quintet! Liner notes have comments and info on all the songs.

“Their repertoire ranges from driving chanteys to ballads and laments, all rendered with rich harmonies in their own inimitable style. Whether leading a sing- along aboard the Peking at South Street Seaport in New York or firing up a festival stage, this group is a winner.” ­ Craig Edwards~~~Mystic Seaport Museum


Round Cape Horn (Deirdre)

When Sailor Jack went off to sea, the girls he left on shore might seize the opportunity to make the most of his absence. This song, collected from a Nantucket

whaler, portrays the girls in their “long false curls and long false hair.” We especially like keeping the “young men all in tow.”

Round Cape Horn

Round Cape Horn the young men go
When the young men go away
Then the young girls dress up neat
And go walking down the street.

Chorus: Right fol-day folididdle day
Right fol rido foliddle day.

Far from the field are young men gone
Far from home and all forlorn
Wish to the Lord that they'd never been born
To go a cruisin 'round Cape Horn.

When those young men do get home
This is the story they do hear
Oh, come along you need not fear
For nobody's courted me, my dear.

Sweet false smiles they long {like} for to wear
Long false curls and long false hair
White satin slippers wtih a silken bow
To keep those young men all in tow.

Blackbird Get Up (Alison)

A rowing song from the West Indies used either during off shore whale hunting or for pulling the boat out of the water. The “wet” verses are a commentary by the whalers on the rainy conditions they endured.

Sailor’s Way (Joy)

It is said a sailor has a girl in every port. Stan Hugill (the British collector of chanteys and a hanteyman himself), and William M. Doerflinger (the American collector of maritime songs), disagree respectively whether this was a work song used at capstan or pumps or a fo’c’s’le song that sailors sang for entertainment. We like the playfulness of the tune, which has some music hall touches.

We've courted gay Peruvian girls and French girls and Chinese
Spanish girls and Dutch girls and dainty Japananese
To far Australia and Honolulu where the Hawaiian maidens play
A different girl in every port for that's the sailor's way
O shining is the north star as it hangs off our starboard bow
We're homeward bound for Liverpool town and our hearts are in it now
for we've crossed the line and the gulf stream, been round by Table Bay
Around the Horn and home again, for that's the sailor's way

And it's goodbye to Ali , we're off to sea once more
Sailor Jack always comes back to the gals he do adore
He'll cross the line and the gulf stream, go round by Table Bay
Around the Horn and home again for that's the sailor's way
And it's goodbye to Deirdre, we're off to sea once more
Sailor Jack always comes back to the gals he do adore
He'll cross the line and the gulf stream, go round by Table Bay
Around the Horn and home again for that's the sailor's way

In calm or storm or rain or shine the shellback doesn't mind
On the ocean swell he works like hell for the gal he's left behind
He beats it north, he runs far south, he doesn't get much pay
He's always on a losing game, for that's the sailor's way
We'll get paid off in Liverpool and go out on a spree
We'll eat and drink and have some fun and forget the bloody sea
And Jack will go with his sweet Marie and Pat with his 'Cushla play
But I'll get drunk and turn in me bunk for that's the sailor's way

And it's goodbye to Bonnie, we're off to sea once more
Sailor Jack always comes back to the gals he do adore
He'll cross the line and the gulf stream, go round by Table Bay
Around the Horn and home again for that's the sailor's way
And it's goodbye to Maggie, we're off to sea once more
Sailor Jack always comes back to the gals he do adore
He'll cross the line and the gulf stream, go round by Table Bay
Around the Horn and home again for that's the sailor's way


Running Down to Cuba (Bonnie)

A sort of “anti-chantey” sung by the sailors when they felt they were being made to do unnecessary or meaningless work. Instead of hauling on a line, they would stomp three times on deck. It was one of the rare instances when sailors voiced their grievances in active protest and within earshot of officers.

Essequibo River (Maggie)

Stan Hugill cites “Harding the Barbarian” from Barbados as his deck source. West Indian in origin, this chantey was first used for loading or moving cargo and then taken to sea by black sailors where it could be used at either halyards or capstan.

Bear Away Yankee, Bear Away Boy (Alison with Deirdre)

A pushing chantey, collected by Roger D. Abrahams, published in his Deep the Water, Shallow the Shore, John Gould is believed to have been a ship owner whose cargo was lost.

Fisherman’s Lassie (Joy with Alison & Deirdre)

Fishing communities on the coasts of the British Isles endured great hardships and reaped great rewards. Long periods of waiting required patience by the fishermen and their families on both land and sea. Isla St. Clair’s grandmother, Madge MacDonald, from the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides sang this one while standing on

the quay at Stornoway waiting for the fishing boats to return home. David Kleiman added the third verse.



I'm a ramblin' tamblin' fol the do me day
I'm a ramblin' tamblin' lassie
I'm a ramblin' tamblin' fol the do me day
and they call me the fisherman's lassie

Oh the fisherman he's a bold young man
You will never find anyone bolder
He wears his sea boots over his knees
and his straps across his shoulder

I'm a ramblin' tamblin' fol the do me day
I'm a ramblin' tamblin' lassie
I'm a ramblin' tamblin' fol the do me day
and they call me the fisherman's lassie

I will dress myself in my sunday best
and make myself look bonnie
then I will hie me to the key
And I'll greet my fair young Johnny

I'm a ramblin' tamblin' fol the do me day
I'm a ramblin' tamblin' lassie
I'm a ramblin' tamblin' fol the do me day
and they call me the fisherman's lassie

Now my Johnny he's a fisherman fine
he brings in cran of herring
Now he's coming home to me
And our love we'll soon be sharing

Walk Along You Sally Brown (Alison)

At least one collector says that Sally Brown (like the Johnson Girls) hailed from New York City, but indeed she could be found in many ports. Depending on the chanteyman’s mood, she possessed either the virtues or the vices of women. This West Indian halyard chantey was collected by Stan Hugill from his deck source

“Tobago” Smith.

Come Love Come (Maggie & Deirdre)

It wasn’t always the sea that provided work. There was plenty to be had on the great inland waterways of the United States. Just as the deep-water sailor pined for the girl he left ashore, the inland boatman had his love songs too. This one is a combination of the minstrel songs “Nancy Till” and Dan Emmet’s “Boatsman Dance”.


Huckleberry Hunting (Alison)

Also known as “The Wild Goose Shanty” or “Sing Hilo, Me Ranzo Ray,” it’s been used for almost all jobs aboard huckleberry picking. Other words in the verses suggest a Down East or Nova Scotian influence. However, even more could be said about the words we don’t sing, for the sailors’ versions were often highly bawdy and ribald!


London Julie (Bonnie, with Alison & Joy)

Just as sailors made long circuitous journeys, so did their chanteys. The text we use is Barry Finn’s (U.S.), who heard the song from a Polish chantey singer, who in turn got it from Roy Harris (U.K.). Roy found the tune and a fragmentary text on a recording in the Robert W. Gordon collection at the Library of Congress. Just as Roy and Barry have provided verses today, so did the sailors and collectors in their day.

Fire Down Below (Alison)

This fine capstan chantey is in the James M. Carpenter collection at the Library of Congress. Carpenter’s source, Welsh seaman William Fender of Barry Docks, served at sea between 1878-1900.



Drummer and the Cook (Deirdre)

Music hall songs and tunes passed freely between the sea and stage. Capt. John Runciman learned this capstan chantey from a cook on the Blyth brig Northumberland. Publisher R. Runciman Terry confesses to only having remembered the first verse and writing the rest.

[N.B. nark – a disagreeable surprise caused by a person (not a drug enforcement officer)]

The Drummer and The Cook

Oh, there was a little drummer and he loved a one-eyed cook
And he loved her oh he loved her though she had a cock-eyed look.

Chorus: With her one eye in the pot and the other up the chimney
With a bow wow wow, fal lal the dow a diddy bow wow wow.

When this couple went a courting for to walk along the shore
Says the drummer to the cookie, "You're the gal that I adore."

When this couple went a courting for to walk along the pier
Says the cookie to the drummer, "And I love you too, my dear."

Says the drummer to the cookie, "Ain't the weather fine today?"
Says the cookie to the drummer, "Is that all you've got to say?"

Says the drummer to the cookie, "Will I buy the wedding ring?"
Says the cookie, "Now you're talking, that would be the very thing."

Says the drummer to the cookie, "Will ye name the wedding day?"
Says the cookie, "We'll be married in the merry month of May."

When this couple went to say I will the drummer got a nark
For her one eye scared the Parson and the other killed the Clerk.

Weary Cutters (Joy)

No more cruel practice than that of impressment, seizing people and property for public service, could be exacted upon the men on shore whenever the Royal Navy was in need of seamen. At its height during the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815), press gangs (cutters) terrorized both residents and Jack Tar in all English ports where they forced or pressed men into service. This is one of a number of songs from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, describing these unfortunate incidents in which women lament the loss of their men.

Chorus:

Oh the weary cutters they've taken my laddie from me
Oh the weary cutters they've taken my laddie from me


They've pressed him far away foreign with Nelson on the salt sea
They've pressed him far away foreign and taken my laddie from me

They always come in the night they never come in the day
They always come in the night to steal our laddies away

I'll give the cutters a guinea I can't give the cutters no more
I'll give the cutters a guinea to steal my laddie ashore

Yankee Man of War (Bonnie & Deirdre)

A ballad that has had many lives, the oldest text we’ve found, “A British Man of War” relates to the Opium War with China (1840-42). A broken token, or in this case, a torn handkerchief is the theme for this American version from the Mexican War (1846-48). Dan Milner, Bonnie’s husband, found this old broadside and composed the tune.

Jump, Isabel, Slide Water (Alison)

Alton C. Morris published this gem in Folksongs of Florida. Isabel was a six-oar rowboat ordered from Lord and Taylor in New York City. It was delivered to Judge Henry O’Neill’s plantation on Amelia Island in Florida and named after his youngest daughter. Three slaves rowed the Judge and his family on picnics and outings throughout the surrounding waterways. When Federal troops occupied the plantation during the Civil War, the handsome hardwood boat, along with other possessions were confiscated and never found when the family returned. The song was composed and sung by the slaves themselves. It was sung slowly to coincide with the hypnotic motion of the dipping and raising of the oars.

Pump Shanty (Deirdre)

True to his name, Tony Goodenough, formerly of London’s Shanty Crew, provided us with his creation. Written in true chantey style and spliced with double entendre, the Johnson Girls eagerly embraced it. A pumping chantey could go on for hours until the bilge water was pumped out of the ship.

Pump Shanty

The captain's daughter I suppose
Could be called an English Rose
What would you think when I propose
The pox she gave to me a dose.

Chorus: Pump me boys, pump her dry
Down to hell and up to the sky
Bend your back and break your bones
We're just a thousand miles from home.

This rose well she did prick me sore
I never felt so bad before
Thanks to the girl i did adore
I thought I'd never pump no more.

I called the doctor right away
To find out what he had to say
That's two pound ten get on your way
I'm sure this girl is in her pay.

They say life has its ups and downs
That really now is quite profound
I'd like to push the capstan round
But its pump me boys before we drown.

The ocean we all do adore
So come on boys let's pump some more
Don't worry if your stiff and sore
I'm sure we've pumped this bit before.

Sometimes when I am in me bed
And thinking of me day ahead
I wish that I could wake up dead
But pumpin's all I get instead.

Yes, how I wish that I could die
The swine who built this tub to find
I'd bring him back from where he fries
And pump him till the beggar's dry.

If Noah used him for his ark
Now wouldn't that have been a lark
>From rising sun till getting dark
The animals all hard at work.

There's so much water down below
Just how it got there I don't know
The old man says let's roll and go
But I think we're bound for Davey Jones.



Fisherman’s Wife (Joy)

From the mouth music tradition of Scotland this song evokes the images of the difficult life and hard work of the fisherman’s wife. In addition to being wife and mother she works around the clock cutting bait, scaling fish and going out in the middle of the night to find “pullars” (peeler crabs) to bait the lines in the morning. Frank Duthie, a fishery officer, of Peterhead had this song from his father. His parents were fisherfolk who were not eager for their son to follow in the same grueling trade.


Who would be a fisherman's wife
to work with a tub and a scrubber and a knife
A died out fire and a raveled bed
And away to the mussels in the morning

chorus:

Here we come scouring in
Three reefs to the foresail in
there's not a dry stitch to put on our back
But still we're all tee totlers

Now give us a hand to run a ripper lead,
to try for a coddy in the Bay of Peterhead
They're maybe at the lummies or the clock at Sautis Head,
and we're off to the small lines in the morning

Me poor old father's in the middle of the floor,
beating hooks onto tippets and they're hanging on his chair
They're made with horses hair, for that's the best of gear
to be going to the fishing in the morning

Soon it's down the Geddle Braes in the middle of the night,
with an old syrup tin and a candle for a light
To gather up the pullars, every one of them in sight,
to get the liney baited for the morning

It's easy for the cobbler sitting in his nook,
his big copper kettle hanging from a hook
but we're in the bow and we cannot get a hook,
and it's sore hard work in the morning

It's not the kind of life that a gentle quine can thole,
with her fingers red raw, and a scrubbin' out a yole
A little'n on her hip, she's away to carry coal and
She'll be cauld sore done in the morning.

Won’t You Help Me to Raise ‘Em (Alison)

Unlike chanteys where the work was done in rhythm with the singing, in net hauling songs the work was done during the pauses between verses punctuated by shouted phrases to encourage or taunt the fisherman. Along the southeast coast of the United States, African-American fishermen used self-closing purse-seine nets to gather menhaden (a type of fish used in industrial, not comestible applications). Cameo appearance by Ken Schatz of The NexTradition.

Goodbye, Fare You Well (Deirdre)

A homeward-bound capstan or windlass chantey, American collector Joanna Colcord gives this particular version as having been sung by the whalemen returning to New Bedford or Nantucket with their holds full of oil and bone. The musical setting is the Johnson Girls’ own.

Goodbye, Fare You Well

Fare you well, Julianna, you know
Hoo row row row me boys
To the westward we row and we now comin' home
Goodbye fare you well, goodbye fare you well.

Fare you well to the fish in the sea
To the westward we row and we now comin' home

Fare you well to the fisherman's song
And here we come with cock, cow, and men

Fare you well let us leave and go home
And here we come with blackfish and men

Fare you well and our sails they are set
And the whales that we leave, well, we leave with regret

Fare you well, Julianna, you know
To the westward we row and we now comin' home

    
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