Sailor Song

The Shanties and Ballads of the High Seas

W.B. Whall

Beautifully produced and illustrated celebration of the music of the sea. Perfect for gift and non-traditional markets.
Publication date:
April 2018
Publisher :
The Pool of London Press
Illustration :
60 colour and b&w artworks and photographs
ISBN : 9781910860236

Out of stock



• Beautifully illustrated with commissioned artworks by popular illustrator and St Jude's artist Jonny Hannah, whose work has graced the pages of Vogue, the New York Times and the Boston Globe and has recently published the acclaimed work Greetings from Darktown (Merrell 2015)
• Perfect for gift and non-traditional markets
• Lyrics, notation and full background to the most celebrated of shanties including The Saucy Arethusa, Lowlands, Reuben Ranzo, South Australia, Stormalong, Haul the Bowline, Hearts of Oak, Drake's Drum and The Banks of Sacremento

Passed down in the oral tradition and sung traditionally as working songs, sea shanties tell the human stories of life at sea: hard graft, battling the elements, the sinking of ships or pining for a lady on shore. Often compiled in a call and response structure, the rhythm of the song is designed to galvanize a group effort of heaving, pulling and pushing to help weigh an anchor, winding the rope round a capstan or to set sail.

Sailor Song, a beautifully produced cloth-bound book, came about to address the current modern revival of sea shanties, and seeks to celebrate and to explore the historical, musical and social history of the traditional sea shanty through an extensive introduction and through the presentation of 40 beautiful, haunting, uplifting, mournful and always inspirational shanties.

The book will present the background to each shanty and at least one or two lines of musical notation. The lyrics of each shanty will be elaborated with explanations of terminology, background information about the song including historical facts and accounts of life at sea, and the characters, both fictional and non-fictional, that appear in the songs. A further section explores, and presents the lyrics for, 30 naval songs and ballads from the great age of sail to last days of square-rig in the early 20th century.

With pages decorated with hand-drawn or wood-cut sea-themed illustrations, the book is also complete with an extensive modern overview on the development of the sea shanty and naval songs, from earliest origins through an exploration of the ‘golden age' in the square riggers of the nineteenth century and decline as the coming of steam reduced the number of hands and the importance of the shantymen. The genre's subsequent ‘leisure' emergence within the singers, culture and festivals of the modern folk and maritime scenes is also explained in detail, and a final essay and reference section introduce the reader to the modern shanty scene from the music of key singers and groups, events and festivals and the wider culture.