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Coincidentally, two CDs this issue from artists for whom shanties and sea-songs strongly resonate. Here, Cambridge (I think)-based Lizzy Hardingham (half of whose family hail from Merseyside and were keen supporters of the RNLI) delivers her fourth release, a mini-album (a Sea-P!) of seven sea songs (one for each of the major oceans) that mixes traditional, self-penned and shanties. At the risk of sounding purist, I find the most immediately arresting track is a bluesy-worksong-flavoured handclap-rhythmed take on Rolling Down To Old Maui. This is an impressive demonstration of Lizzy’s powerful voice, which is well in evidence too on the three self-penned songs which embody her deep-held concern for environmental matters.

King Of The Boundless Deep tells with a melancholy compassion of the majesty of the whale and its intense suffering, while Memorial For A Glacier imagines the plight of Jack Frost and his icy love, and Follow Her Down follows the mysterious Antarctic Ocean to the South Pole. These songs have an ambitious, epic scope, and Lizzy has engaged fellow-musicians Ellie McCann, Cian Davis and Mark Gordon to flesh out her own contributions. Lizzy takes a similarly widescreen approach to Shallow Brown and Shenandoah (perhaps in an attempt to broaden their appeal), but I find the predominance of synthesisers and lush arrangements works against this and intentional beauty borders on bland gospel-pop. The remaining shanty, South Australia, may be well-known (and she’s recorded it before too) but Lizzy gives it a fresh spin with more of her own vocal harmonies and a percussive stomp.

It’s a pity, then, that Lizzy’s mature and accomplished vocal talent (and persuasive songwriting) feels just a bit submerged on this collection, partly drowning if not quite all at sea in an ocean of over-production.

David Kidman


This review appeared in Issue 135 of The Living Tradition magazine