Review: Port Isaac's Fisherman's Friends
PRIDE in being Cornish shone through the mixed platter of shanties, ballads and folk songs served up by Port Isaac's Fisherman's Friends to an ebullient and expectant audience.
Fresh young singer/guitarist Lotte Mullan provided the hors d'oeuvres with her self-written gentle ballads. I'm Still Here and I'm Alright With Me were messages in song for her mother and sister respectively. Tender, sensitive singing matched the perceptive words and her self-effacing demeanour. A nostalgic lullaby-hymn Peace At The End Of The Day provided the calm before the storm.
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Whoops, whistles and cheers greeted the entry of the ten proud Cornishmen who proceeded to bombard us with a rollercoaster of shanties, sad laments and work songs in the best folk tradition. A mixture of a cappella and accompanied singing (piano accordion/acoustic guitar) was interspersed with a cocktail of constant patter and jokes by the single bass singer and born comedian Jon Cleave.
Taking turns with solo singing they romped through Dance To Your Daddy, Donkey Riding and Drunken Sailor reminding me of my years at school learning these shanties and sea songs from the News Chronicle Songbook.
Trev's sad rendering of The Last Leviathan (whales hunted to extinction) tugged at the heartstrings whereas John McDonnell's catchy calypso Green Banana Johnny contrasted. Cleavey's spooky version of Sailing Down The Coast Of High Barbary incorporated the only dissonant chords of the evening for a "shiver" effect.
Throughout the harmonies were purely instinctive, rugged and pleasing and Cleave 's bass notes richly reached the boots beneath the baritones and tenors. Lower Lights harked back to their Methodist roots with its hymn-like aura and rich chorale singing.
Ratcheting up the effervescence with audience participation in action song Haul On The Rope, Climb Up The Mast, a vigorous Can't You Dance The Polka? and The Union Of Different Kinds a calm conclusion was reached in Sail Away Ladies.
After standing for two hours without wilting or flagging and with obvious camaraderie and concern for each other they responded to the clamour for more with a raunchy French Shanty and two of their signature songs Cousin Jack and South Australia.
Natural performers and entertainers with friendly banter and magnetic stage presence, rich harmonies and nostalgia all rolled into one could not fail to be a winner and the Cheltonians showed huge vocal appreciation to these attributes. A truly fitting kick off to this week's Folk Festival.