Louis Killen

Sea Chanteys

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The only album on which British folksinger/historian Louis Killen is credited as "Lou," 1968's Sea Chanteys is also his sole recording for the eclectic underground label ESP-Disk. Recorded in a one-day session on May 22, 1968, during the brief period Killen lived in New York City, Sea Chanteys is the first of many collections of sea and sailing songs he would record over the next several decades. All traditional songs except for "Shoals of Herring," an original by Killen's early mentor Ewan MacColl, these songs are performed completely solo and a cappella in the traditional style. Although Killen is a noted folk music scholar, there's nothing academic about these performances, which are performed with lusty vitality and, at times, antic humor. The closing "The Blind Cow Caught Fire" is one of the funniest songs in Killen's repertoire, a shaggy-dog tale of sailors taking refuge in the basement of a pub that's burning to the ground so that they can drink the place dry before it's destroyed. The song, like much of the rest of the album, dispels the common myth that traditional British folk music is a wan and humorless music performed by people who take themselves far too seriously. Sea Chanteys proves that nothing could be further from the truth.

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