photos: Judith Burrows
Against the odds a gallant last wicket stand by the tail-enders - will they hold on until close of play in the First Test and snatch a draw? "And now Radio Four Longwave listeners will be leaving us for the shipping forecast…" And despite my frustration at the interruption, once more I am seduced by the measured tones of the litany .....Dogger.....Fisher.....German Bight.... In these islands we are never far from the sea - even at Lord’s or Edgbaston. I was born in the English Midlands, as far from the sea as it is possible to be. Curiously (or perhaps not) our favourite hymn in school assembly was Eternal Father Strong To Save (O hear us as we cry to thee for those in peril on the sea). Wariness, respect and admiration for the oceans were fostered more by the cinema - Hornblower, Moby Dick, In Which We Serve (how many times did John Mills get torpedoed?) than by actual experience. A week largely spent sitting in a bus shelter watching the rain at Weymouth, aged eight doesn’t really count .....Lundy.....Fastnet.....Irish Sea..... Nonetheless, a fascination for the sea has become part of my life, and even now I feel genuine excitement when boarding a ferry, any ferry, wherever it might be going.
In the past the sea was a way of life for many more than it is today, whether as sailors in the Royal or Merchant Navies, as fishermen or as workers in the many associated industries and trades. While the visual image must remain strong - Drifters, John Grierson’s fine documentary of the herring fleets made in 1929, or the more recent Master And Commander - it is the songs of the tradition that are a direct link with that past. They speak of the horrors of battle at sea, the misery, the vicious ill treatment and the powerlessness of the individual on board ship as graphically as any film. Emigration, shipwreck, cannibalism, seemingly endless bitter weather and privation are all here. So are the men (and women) whose lives are governed by the sea - faithful, faithless, promiscuous, destitute or just plain drunk. "The best of intentions they never go far after 42 days at the door of a bar" .....Shannon.....Rockall.....Malin..... Modern song writing, when not describing actual historical events, is more likely to use the sea as metaphor, particularly in terms of relationships or personal crisis, or to see it as part of the expression of Heimat, of identification with Home. No wonder the shipping forecast has such resonance for us. "I’d like that read at my funeral" said a friend.
Each of the songs on Ashore speaks of the sea's place in the lives of people of the British Isles.
Finisterre (Ian Telfer) ~ The Bleacher Lassie Of Kelvinhaugh(trad)~ The Grey Funnel Line (Cyril Tawney)~ Le Vingt-Cinquième Du Mois D'Octobre (trad)~ Shipbuilding (Costello/Langer) ~ Jamaica (instrumental) ~ The Great Selkie Of Sule Skerry (trad) ~ Winter Comes In (J.Renwick/R.Jamieson)& Vidlin Voe (F.Jamieson, instr.) ~ The Oggie Man (C. Tawney) ~ I'll Go And Enlist For A Sailor (instr,trad) ~ The Brean Lament (trad) ~ Le Petit Navire (trad) ~ Across The Wide Ocean (Les Barker)
Recorded and mixed by Martin Levan at his own Red Kite Studio in 2010
"These are performances that accumulate power on repeated listening. Prepare to be carried away and picked clean" Independent
"It's a remarkable record. There's nothing about it that's twee or antique. That's because we feel the same way about the sea as we always have done. Frightened." The Word
"A terrific example of an interpretative singer at the peak of her powers" The Times
"It’s rare, especially with an album this vocally accomplished, that you wish it came with an accompanying CD containing just the instrumental arrangements. But Andy Cutting, Mark Emerson, Tim Harries and Huw Warren create an incredibly vivid soundscape, and I would happily buy it on its own. Pure class." English Dance and Song
"Her versions of songs others have sung simply reinvent and raise those songs to new and impossibly high levels" Sydney Morning Herald
"Each track comes with sublimely tailored accompaniment....Tabor's chilling voice, an instrument in its own right, coveys an ocean of emotion without any artifice" The Weekend Australian
"in a world of lightweights, Tabor’s a colossus and this is one of her finest hours." BBC Music
"This deeply affecting collection of sea stories demonstrates the core of her art almost to perfection." Mojo