With 27 songs, 75 minutes of playing time, and a 32 pp. booklet on the history of the Tall Ships in BC’s Lower Mainland, “Blow the Man Down: Tall Ships in the Fraser”, the first CD to be released by the VFSS Shanty Crew, is a great addition to any traditional folk music collection. The music and the images provide a vivid picture of what life would have been like for the sailors who plied the oceans in the days of sail. All of the songs on the CD are traditional, and were passed down through voice rather than print. The CD features both shanties (the call-and- response songs sung by sailors as they worked) and forebitters (songs that sailors sung after their watch was over). Many of the songs on the CD have a Canadian or Lower Mainland
connection. “The Sailor’s Alphabet”, “Flash Packet”, and “The Wreck of the Mary Somers” derive from the singing of Capt. Charles Cates, long-time mayor of North Vancouver, and the owner and operator of Cates Towing (the largest tug-boat company in the region). “Ceux qui ont nommé les Blanc”, describes the fishing off Saint-Pierre, a French island off the coast of Newfoundland, and “Lady Franklin’s Lament” recounts the tragedy of Lord Franklin’s voyage to discover the elusive North West Passage.
The VFSS Shantycrew has had many members over its 35 year life. Two original members, Jon Bartlett and Rika Ruebsaat, here lead 13 of the songs. Other members of the shantycrew are Granville Airton, Judith Heather, Joe Jordan, Henk Piket, Simon Trevelyan and Barry Truter.