Danny Spooner was regarded as one of the foremost traditional singers in Australia.
An English-born Australian, he presented songs of work and life from both cultures.
As a working man and a historian, his chat between songs gave songs a context and life. Through years of festivals, concerts, house concerts and camps in Australia, Europe and North America, he was welcomed for his personal warmth, and loved to pass songs on.
Recorded 2014 by Steve Bullock, Jeeves Audio Services.
As Danny sang his beloved songs of the sea, you could feel the movement of the ship, taste the salt air. His rhythm was always just right. He knew the excitement and dangers of being ‘on the water’, wanted to share that with his audience, hoping they’d join in the chorus.
CD review by Tony Smith
When asked how he chose his repertoire, the late great Danny Spooner remarked that it seemed as though the songs chose him.
Whether in songs about workers in Britain and Ireland or about seafarers, as on this album, Danny was dedicated to ensuring that his renditions of songs were as faithful as possible to the originals in these genuinely ‘folk’ songs.
The title song among these 14 tracks is by Charles Dibden, perhaps England’s best known composer of maritime ballads and ditties.
In it, two sailors remind each other why they are lucky to be at sea when there is a storm because in towns, people can be killed by flying debris!
Although an efficient guitarist, Danny used only his concertina to create the nautical atmosphere for this album.
He sings about a third of the songs unaccompanied, which is probably how sailors themselves would render many of them.
Needless to say, in his customary fashion, Danny undertook meticulous research and conscientiously acknowledges sources and describes their provenance.
In the notes about ‘Jack the Jolly Tar’ for example, he mentions McColl, A.L. Lloyd and Cecil Sharp, and Sharp’s source, and his own.
While most of the songs are about English sailors, ‘You Gentlemen of Boston’ and ‘Jamestown Homeward Bound’ concern the American experience.
There is a strong theme of sailors getting into trouble while on shore.
Sometimes they were exploited as on ‘Ratcliffe Highway’ a Wapping street which became so notorious its name was changed.
Sometimes they caused the mischief, as did the opportunistic ‘Jack the Jolly Tar’.
There are songs looking forward to the company of girls ashore such as the ‘Spanish gals along the coast of Chile’ who make the risks and hard work of ‘Rounding the Horn’ worthwhile.
‘The Indian Lass’ describes how a sailor might be enchanted by a girl who was not out to strip his pay packet.
‘The Captain’s Apprentice’ describes a tragedy when a skipper let his cabin boy die.
A captain was God aboard his ship and it was probably rare that one was held to account.
‘Young Edwin in the Lowlands Low’ concerns the murder of a sailor ashore by the parents of his sweetheart who did not want them marrying.
There are also songs of leave taking from sweethearts, including lots of promises and broken hearts such as ‘Here’s Adieu Sweet Lovely Nancy’ from the singing of the Copper family of Sussex.
There is some happiness too in ‘The Bold Fisherman’.
‘The Candlelight Fisherman’ Danny learnt from his skipper, Bob Roberts.
It tells of the importance of the wind and other weather in the mariner’s life and how by blowing out the candle and opening the lantern, you can tell from where the wind is blowing, its strength and what weather is likely ahead.
Danny also covered a Gordon Bok song ‘Dark Old Waters’ which gives the boat builder’s perspective.
The final track is ‘The Sailor’s Hymn’ traditionally sung to the tune ‘Abide With Me’ at the blessing of the fishing fleet in England.
Danny Spooner was better qualified than most to sing songs of the sea, having himself worked as a mariner.
This is a beautifully presented CD with the lyrics to all the songs and a painting illustrates every page.
Danny thanks Charles Ipcar for the images and Dieter Bajzek for the design and artwork.
As well as presenting sea songs beautifully sung, the album is visually attractive.
It might be a cliché, but this album prompts the thought about Danny Spooner that alas, his like won’t come again.
We are very lucky he left behind so many excellent CDs.