David Isom – Down to the Sea


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SKU: TN2534-90 Category:



Is a compilation of three albums, “Down to the Sea”Volumes 1&2 plus a couple of sea songs from Dave’s early “Songs of Australia” album. Volume 1 was engineered , mixed and mastered by legendary Little River Band guitarist and sound engineer  David Briggs,( “ Lonesome Loser”) produced by Red Gum’s Hugh McDonald who also plays guitar and produced Volume 2.

Featuring many top Australian musicians including Michael Harris on violin, George Butrumlis and Peter Anderson on accordions, Alex Black and Shelley Heath also on violin with Goanna Band’s Marcia Howard and Rose Bygrave on backing vocals plus many more great musicians.

These are some of Dave’s favourite maritime songs and represent a rich selection from some of the the world’s best song writers including the late great Canadian writer Stan Rogers, Gordon Lightfoot,Eric Bogle,Ewen MacColl,Mike O’Connor, Bob Dylan as well as some by Dave himself.

The songs are the pick of the three albums with Dave on vocals, guitar, 5 string banjo and concertina and are sure to delight sailors and “ armchair sailors “ alike plus anyone who enjoys listening to good acoustic music.


CD review by Tony Smith

TN158 – Oct 23

This 2021 album combines the pick of two volumes of sea songs and ‘Songs of Australia’.

Over time, David Isom has played with the Bushwackers, the Sundowners, The All Australian Pub Show and toured extensively in schools for various state arts councils.

A keen sailor, he sailed around the world on his ship Eliana, so he has enough saltwater in his blood to be able to sing these songs with authority.

There is a solid Canadian representation in the 19 tracks.

‘Christian Island’ by Gordon Lightfoot is a perfect opening track, with its relaxed feel.

Two tracks, ‘Make and Break Harbour’ and ‘Lock Keeper’, are by Stan Rogers, who died tragically young in an aircraft fire.

Eric Bogle dedicated his ‘Safe in the Harbour’ to Rogers.

There are well known tunes such as ‘Jamaica Farewell’ by Harry Belafonte and ‘Shoals of Herring’ by Ewan McColl.

Slight surprises are ‘Carrying Nelson Home’ (in the brandy barrel) by Mike O’Connor, ‘Let Her Go Down’ by Peter Knight and ‘Save the Whales’ by ‘Country’ Joe McDonald.

A couple of Australian songs, ‘T.I. Woman’ by Mike O’Rourke and ‘Little Boy Fishing’ by zither player, Shirley Abicair, deserve their recognition here.

‘Leaving of Liverpool’, ‘Little Fishes’, ‘Down to the Sea/ Dark Isle’, ‘Lord Franklin’, ‘10,000 Miles Away’ and ‘Sailor’s Alphabet’ are variously described as traditional or anonymous.

The album ends with ‘Sailing’ by Isom himself.

Isom also wrote the yearning ‘Down to the Sea’.

Dylan fans will know the story of ‘When the Ship Comes In’.

Apparently, Bob Dylan was refused entry to a hotel because he looked scruffy and wrote this song in anger.

It is almost a curse warning of his revenge.

Dylan had a friend who was into the theatre of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill and in their ‘Threepenny Opera’ they have a character called Pirate Jenny.

She seems in turn to have been borrowed from Gay’s ‘Beggars Opera’.

In the musical, Jenny has been working as a menial at a hotel, looked down upon by the townspeople.

When pirates reduce the town to rubble, but sparing the hotel, they line up the townspeople and ask Jenny what to do with them.

She takes her revenge and goes off with the pirates.

Dylan might well have been inspired.

Isom (vocals, guitar, 5 string banjo, English concertina) is joined by Hugh McDonald (backing vocals, guitars, bass guitar), Peter Anderson (button accordion), Micheal Atkinson (Kurzweil keyboard), Alex Black (violin), Allan Bowles (harmonica), George Butrumlis (piano accordion), Rose Bygrave (backing vocals), Brian Czempinski (drums, percussion), Tim Hannaford (bass guitar, backing vocals), Michael Harris (violin), Shelley Heath (violin), Marcia Howard (backing vocals), Tony Leonard (piano, mandolin, backing vocals), Lisa Young (backing vocals),  Jamie Spicer (drums, percussion) and Ian Tritt (mandolin).

The arrangements are ideal for Isom’s strong, clear voice and some of the fiddle playing particularly seems just right for sea songs.

Fans of shanties might find David Isom’s choices rather unusual but should appreciate being introduced to so many fine sea songs.

Additional information

Weight .190 kg
Dimensions 21 × 15 × 1.0 cm


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