Song of the Seas

Beautifully performed, wonderfully written songs with Irish, English and Scottish flavours….and authentic voyage to the open seas.

–Steve Behrens, 67music.net

Read the full review at 67 Music


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Track List

1_The Song Of The Peter Iredale

LYRICS

Along the Oregon Coast lie thousands of shipwrecks. Many occurred during the Great Age of Sail and were the result of bad weather across the notorious Columbia River Bar. Perhaps the most famous of these wrecks is the Peter Iredale, a four-masted, steel-hulled British barque, built in Maryport, England in 1890. She was wrecked in 1906 while approaching the entrance to the Columbia River on her way to Portland.

This song was written after a warm lunch with friends in Astoria, followed by a rainy visit to Clatsop Spit where what remains of the Iredale’s iron and steel hull, gradually returns to the elements. After her grounding, she settled with her bow pointing forever toward the river bar that kept her from her destination that October night. Lewis and Clark’s infamous “Cape Disappointment” can be seen just beyond.

copyright Michael F Bryant 2011

2_The Mains’l and The Bell

LYRICS

Most of us grew up on Herman Melville’s story of Captain Ahab and his almost mystical battle with the great white whale, Moby Dick, who attacked and sank the whaleship Pequod. Most of us did not know, however, that Melville based his story on an actual occurrence. Now, thanks to Nathaniel Philbrick and his books In The Heart of the Sea and The Loss of the Ship Essex, Sunk by a Whale, we know that in November of 1820, a Nantucket whaleship named the Essex was actually attacked by a whale in the Pacific, and that the story brought back by some of the survivors inspired Melville’s classic tale. This song is my contribution to that lore.

copyright Michael F Bryant 2011

3_Black Is The Colour of My True Love’s Hair

LYRICS

“Black is the Colour” is truly one of my favorites. The song is a traditional Scottish folk song that was brought by immigrants to southern Appalachia and first documented in 1916. I changed the lyrics for a concert performance at a maritime festival two years ago. You will notice that in this version the singer goes off to sea. In the more traditional lyric, he goes to the River Clyde in Scotland.

Traditional (with maritime verses written by Michael F Bryant)

4_The Valparaiso Suite (Farewell Valparaiso)

LYRICS

This guitar solo was inspired by the painting “Off Valparaiso” by Thomas Jacques Somerscales (1842-1927).

The port of Valparaiso, Chile, is a restful harbor for those brave sailors who survive the terrible storms and high headwinds of a trip west, “around the Horn.” It is where partially wrecked ships and men are repaired, rested and made ready for continuing across the Pacific and up the west coast.

To me, this tune has the feel of getting underway, from the first groanings of the ship’s frame and masts as the canvas fills, to the rise and fall of the hull as it re-learns to “take” the sea.

copyright Michael F Bryant 2011

5_My Ireland

LYRICS

The Atlantic Ocean was once the only “highway” that connected Europe and the British Isles with North America. And just as the young people of today often take to the road to seek their fortunes, so the young people of past eras left the Old World, boarded transatlantic ships and crossed over to America in search of their fortunes. Unfortunately, the trip meant enduring much hardship and was made at great personal risk.

A visit to Ireland a couple of summers ago gave me the inspiration to write this seagoing romance.

copyright Michael F Bryant 2011

6_When I Was A Boy

LYRICS

I knew early in life that I would go to sea and travel the world. What I didn’t know was that I would do it in a submarine. The song “When I Was A Boy” is about our leaving St. Croix, Virgin Islands, after months of patrolling their quiet, clear, warm, turquoise waters and heading for the Panama Canal on our way to begin a patrol cycle in the South China Sea, “10,000 miles” away. By the way, Mother Maria was a real person who brought wonderful fruits and goodies to our “boat” every day, balanced in a basket on her head. She feared that we would all be lost “in the shadowy waters below,” and said a prayer for our safe return every time we cast off our lines.

copyright Michael F Bryant 2011

7_Henry Martin

LYRICS

In the year 1511, two captured Scottish sailing ships were towed up England’s Thames River, effectively ending the reign of terror of one Andrew Barton (aka Henry Martin). James IV of Scotland had granted Barton permission to seek reprisal against the Portuguese fleet for capturing his vessel on the high seas.

But Barton and his sons (the ‘three brothers’ in this song) turned to piracy, victimizing not only Portuguese but English shipping as well. England’s king, the notorious Henry VIII, a man not to be toyed with, commissioned two ships under the Earl of Surrey to put an end to the Bartons’ exploits. And so they did. On August 2nd, Barton’s head was delivered to London along with his ships.

Traditional/Scottish

8_Lord Franklin (Lady Franklin’s Lament

LYRICS

In 1845, Sir John Franklin, a much loved and highly decorated admiral in the British Navy, set to sea amidst much pomp and celebration to find a way through the fabled and frozen northwest passage around Greenland and up through the Davis Strait to Baffin’s Bay. He and his two ships and their crews were never heard from again. His wife, Lady Jane Griffin Franklin, sent out a search party on his behalf, but it was in vain. It is believed that she wrote this song, which makes the words and melody all the more haunting.

Traditional/English

9_The Bonnie Ship The Diamond

LYRICS

Whale populations had been depleted in some regions off coastal Greenland in the 1800’s due to overfishing. This caused the whaling fleets to venture into new and dangerous waters. The whaleship Diamond, along with The Resolution, The Eliza Swan, The Battler of Montrose (all mentioned in this song) and many others, were lost in the ice fields of the Davis Strait between Labrador and Southwest Greenland in 1830. They were all “a fishin’ for the whale,” and never returned to the Scottish port of Peterhead and the lasses waiting there.

Traditional/Scottish

10_The Leavin’ of Liverpool

LYRICS

Since Liverpool is an English port, one might at first think this song to be an English song. However, it was actually first heard aboard an American ship in 1885. The sailor who first heard it and is credited with bringing it to the world was an American named Richard Maitland.

The ship named in the song, The David Crockett, was out of New York, and her Captain, John A. Burgess, was from Massachusetts. Of note, Captain Burgess was lost at sea in a storm on what was to have been his last voyage before retiring.

Interestingly, the emigrating Irish loved to sing this song on their way to America. I couldn’t think of a better song to end this album.

Traditional/American