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CHRIS RICKETTS - Songs In The Key Of Sea 

CHRIS RICKETTS - Songs In The Key Of Sea 
Acoustic Fusion Records AF04 

Singer/songwriter/guitarist Chris has something of a healthy obsession with the sea! Close on a decade ago, he released a series of CDs where he interspersed fresh readings of traditional shanties and sea songs with some of his own songs on a nautical theme, couched roughly in the acoustic folk-rock idiom. Fast forward seven years, during which Chris served his time as entertainer on board a cruise ship. A natural vocation for Chris then, and on the evidence of this comeback album the experience has sharpened his writing and interpretive skills. His genial sense of humour extends from the punning album title through to light-textured, lively songs such as The Cross Dressing Sailor and a funky cover of Jack Forbes’ classic cargo shanty, Tilbury Town. Chris also does a nice job on traditional shanty Sam’s Gone Away with the help of Garry Blakeley’s dancing fiddle.

At the same time, Chris continues to demonstrate his empathy for, and deep-rooted love of, the sea song/shanty tradition in more serious vein on These Are The Songs, St. Jean Port Joli, Hey Stan (Dave Buckley’s affectionate homage to Stan Hugill) and a smoothly arranged take on Shenandoah (featuring regular collaborator Matt Blackwell on piano). The album ends with a cover of Tom Petty’s I Won’t Back Down, backed by Chris’s newly-acquired cuatro – though I’m unsure of its relevance in the context of the rest of the album. Thus I’m not entirely convinced that Chris has quite settled into his chosen niche just yet.

David Kidman


This review appeared in Issue 135 of The Living Tradition magazine