In part a documentary on the change and decline of the fishing industry, in part an exploration of folk song and traditions, Singing the Fishing is one of the best of the radio ballads that Ewan MacColl, Peggy Seeger, and Charles Parker developed. Thanks in part to the fine singing of Yarmouth native Sam Larner, who began working on fishing boats in the 19th century, and remembered the age of sail, this becomes both a comprehensive and impressionistic history, starting in Yarmouth, and then, after the introduction of the diesel fishing fleet, moves up to Scotland, where the North Sea fleet made its home. The songs and narration cover every aspect of fishing, from signing on to the boats after leaving school to bringing the catch home, with, of course, plenty about the time on the boats. There are plenty of sound effects -- most gathered on the boats by the principals -- to keep everything very much alive, and there's a real sense of depth in talking to the fishermens' wives, the ones who wait and hope at home. As usual, MacColl proves himself to be an exemplary songwriter, gleaning his material from the fabric of real lives. The mix of field recordings, music, and recording techniques served them well for a radio show which proved to be groundbreaking, with the trio having learned from their two previous radio ballads, with the epic track "Up Jumped the Herring" a true standout.
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AllMusic Review by Chris Nickson