Bounding Main revives maritime music for a new generation
With hot indie rock acts such as The Decemberists doing their part to give artistic credibility to a contemporary maritime sound, and movies like "Master and Commander" and "Pirates of the Caribbean" glorifying the sea life for a whole new generation, it's no surprise that, musically, the sea shanty genre is steadily gaining more and more attention and accessibility.
Just ask Dean Calin, one of the three male vocalists in the maritime music sextet Bounding Main.
"There are a few hundred traditional sea shanties on record and they form a core of musical history from which a lot of artists draw," he says. "Frank Zappa and Kate Bush have both cut versions of "Handsome Cabin Boy."
Though the members of the Chicago- and Milwaukee-based nautical group are happy to see the genre's place in popular culture, when they're performing at The Bristol Renaissance Faire, maritime festivals or museums, they're all about tradition. And their Feb. 1 release, "Lost at Sea," is no exception.
"Of the 14 songs on the album, 10 are considered traditional," says Calin, referencing classics such as "Haul Away Joe," "Cape Cod Girls," and "Randy Dandy O." "What makes our versions of these pieces unique is that we add harmony and theatricality to the arrangements.
Calin defines sea shanties as "work songs that were used on the square-rigged ships of the Age of Sail. Their rhythms coordinated the efforts of many sailors raising sails, pulling up the anchor chain or pumping water from the hold. "
So how does a group of modern-day performers get interested in the traditional songs that old sailors bellowed over the wind and the waves centuries ago? For Calin, it all began in a grade school music class.
"I remember learning "Paddy Lay Back," "Sloop John B," "Sailing, Sailing" and others when I was a kid. I didn't know then that those were all part of the same genre."
Calin went on to form Bounding Main in January 2003 with Christie Dalby, David Yondorf, Gina Dalby, Jon Krivitzky and Maggie Hannington -- all of who hail from different places on the musical spectrum. While some were into classical, some show tunes and others classic rock and even metal, no one had maritime on their musical resume.
"I pretty much dragged everyone aboard the shanty music ship," admits Calin. "Drawing from a very talented pool of performers, I was able to get an amazing group together. We all decided that this music was so visceral and immediate -- and just plain fun -- that we decided to see if we could do this together regularly. That was three years and dozens of shows ago."
Since then, they've managed to drop an anchor in the hearts of many. Calin describes their fans -- cleverly dubbed "Bounding Mainiacs" -- as young, urban professionals, but says that, sooner or later, everyone gets enchanted by their sound.
"Music sung on tall ships in the Age of Sail tends to draw an interesting crowd. While this music, traditionally, is pretty raw, we mostly clean it up so parents with kids love our shows, too. The music is all about adventure, so the appeal is broad."
Bounding Main has a tight grip on the rigging of the past, but what does the future hold for this old-timey band?
"We're hoping to be able to work with the new Aquatarium at Pier Wisconsin. They will have a nice performance space there that will make a great setting for our shows.
Their Web site is boundingmain.com.
luv it said: Women in corsets... a good thing!
Dean said: We're having our CD Release Party for our new disk, "Lost at Sea" on March 5th at the Waukegan Yacht Club from 5-8. We'll be performing, copies of the CD will be for sale, appetizers, wine tasting and more! Look to www.boundingmain.com for more details.
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