Though Scottish sailors were prominent in British navies, fishing and whaling vessels, and merchant fleets for hundreds of years, their contribution to the music and literature of the sea is often overlooked. Anchor & Thistle is the first compilation of Scottish sea shanties, and it is a fine beginning. Internationally known maritime scholar and shanteyman Simon Spalding got together with the Scottish band Dardum to record this album, which is interspersed with readings from the diaries and letters of 19th century Scots sailors. The readings are an inspired touch, lending a personal and often humorous air to the whole project. This is not a sterile historical document, but a portrait of a lively and passionate people who followed a dangerous profession. The oldest songs here probably date from the 1700s, while the most recent, "The Universal Oilman" dates from the North Sea Oil rush of the 1970s, but all have a detectable common thread. Anchor & Thistle was recorded in Aberdeen, Scotland, and financed by the Aberdeen Town Council. The town has a seafaring history dating back hundreds of years, and if the Council's intent was to create a profile of the Scots at sea, they got value for their money. Anchor & Thistle is one of the best recent albums of sea shanties, and well worth seeking out.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Richard Foss