Album review: JOE DANKS – Seaspeak

JOE DANKS - Seaspeak

Website [Release date 09.07.21]

Joe Danks may live in landlocked rural Derbyshire but the sound and smell of the sea and maritime images are locked firmly in his head. Danks found his ‘sea legs’ when he landed a year-long residency at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich as part of the English Folk Dance & Song Society’s ‘Musicians in Museums’ project. ‘Seaspeak’ arose from being inspired by stories and objects exhibited at the National Maritime Museum – from model ships to Turner’s famous ‘Battle of Trafalgar’ painting (recalled here on ‘Man Of War’).

Guest musicians on the album include Danny Pedler (Pedler/Russell) on accordion and hurdy-gurdy, Sarah Matthews (Sweet Visitor Band, Cupola) on fiddle, viola and vocals and harpist Jean Kelly. Also listen out for Simon Harmer who contributes his distinctive step dancing on two numbers.

The songs all have a story to tell, based on real life events such as ‘308’, the number of crew aboard HMS Rawalpindi which was sunk in 1939 following a German attack. ‘Jutland 1916′ covers the famous sea battle, recalling one of the lesser known casualties, laundry boy John Blackwell.

The gentle ‘Hussey’s John Peel’ is similar to the music of Ninebarrow, a folk song based on a traditional song and given a modern spruce by Danks.

It wouldn’t be a maritime collection without a hornpipe, in this case ‘The Dorsetshire Hornpipe’, where Danny Peddler takes to the spotlight with his accordion playing. It is also one of the two song to feature the dancing feet of Simon Harmer!

‘Southward’ is something a little special as Danks sings acapella on this one, which when recorded in the Queen’s House stairwell at the Maritime Museum, adds an almost gothic, haunting air to the song.

Ewan MacColl’s ‘Sweet Thames Flows Softly’ ends the album off nicely. Danks singing sits beautifully on top of harpist Jean Kelly’s playing. Another song that has wonderful sonic feel and a listen on headphones is highly recommended for this album.

Joe Danks certainly used his time as a musician in a museum to great effect as ‘Seaspeak’ ably demonstrates. A delightful folk album that is steeped in nautical tales and you can almost taste the sea salt on some of the songs. ***1/2

Review by Jason Ritchie

David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 12 September 2021 and includes the Top 10 albums at for that week.

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