Way hay, me lads. A pirate’s life for me. Being a nautical financial journey, we need to ensure our crew morale is high and jolly in this long sometimes perilous journey of financial independence. I know this is not financial but I hope you enjoy my list of the best sea shanty and songs for 2021 so far are.
One of the greatest things to come out of 2021 was the sea shanties trend. Now I must state that there is a difference between a sea shanty and sea songs. I should say that some people use the phrase “sea shanty” to mean any song sung by sailors. However, the word had a more specific meaning in nautical culture. Properly speaking, shanties are work songs sung aboard ships and boats. These songs are sung when sailors were at work to increase morale and pass time.
A sea song is a folk song about sailing. These are the songs you hear today and are more lyrical and have a rhythm.
But enough of the semantics. I hope my list will introduce you to some great sea “shanties” (songs). While also listing to some great bands you probably are not aware of.
10: Haul Away Joe: The Longest John
The Longest Johns are a Bristol based, Capella folk music band, born out of a mutual love of traditional folk songs and shanties. They rock maritime songs alongside the more unusual and less traditional folk tunes.
I doubt any of Bristol’s The Longest Johns ever imagined they would be able to get so far on just four voices.
In a few short years, they have gone from singing sea shanties in a kitchen to International folk festivals, tours, TV appearances and gained a huge online following.
As the face of the 2021 sea shanty revival with their track Wellerman. The Johns are reaching millions of new fans all across the globe.
9: The Flying Dutchman: The Jolly Rodgers
Jolly Roger is the traditional English name for the flags flown to identify a pirate ship about to attack.
The flag most commonly identified as the Jolly Roger today—the skull and crossbones symbol on a black flag—was used during the 1710s by several pirate captains including Black Sam Bellamy, Edward England, and John Taylor. It went on to become the most commonly used pirate flag during the 1720s.
The Jolly Rogers have proudly been the source of some of the best in maritime music for almost 30 years. They’ve performed across the United States and even internationally and have defined the pirate sub-genre of the maritime tradition.
8: Spanish Ladies: Jerry Bryant
Jerry Bryant is a singer, entertainer, and independent folk scholar focused on curating great songs from the past 500 years of American, Irish, and British traditions.
His repertoire includes hundreds of traditional and contemporary folk songs, with a special emphasis on the musical artifacts of maritime culture. Accompanying himself on concertina, guitar, banjo, ukulele, and bones. He presents old and new songs that open windows on the human experience. By researching the music he is able to add historical insights to his performances. This has also provided him with subjects for making new songs, in the spirit of the tradition.
7: Leave Her Johnny: Sean Dagher
Sean Dagher is a folk singer and multi-instrumentalist from Montreal that sings all manner of folk songs: shanties, Celtic, French, medieval, middle-Eastern.
He plays Irish bouzouki, mandolin, banjo, oud, and, of course, shruti box.
You may of heard his music in Assassin’s Creed, played with the OSM, composed for theatre and video games. He performs with La Nef, Skye Consort, arranges for choirs and chamber groups.
Checkout his youtube channel here, he has some great informative and fun videos.
6: Botany Bay: Blaggards
Front man Patrick Devlin grew up in Dublin, Ireland, and moved to Houston in his early 20′s. After working in the local club scene for several years, Patrick saw a demand for Irish rock music that nobody was taking advantage of.
In 1996, to this end he formed a band called On The Dole. Although the band did well, opening for legendary Irish touring acts like the Wolfe Tones and the Saw Doctors, eventually Patrick decided it was time to clear the decks and start again.
5: A Drop of Nelson Blood: Storm Weather Shanty Choir
Former sailboat shipmate Haakon Steinar Vatle founded the Storm Weather Shanty Choir after sailing the seas on the 3-masted steel bark “Statsraad Lehmkuhl”. Haakon Steinar Vatle returned to the island Stord at the western coast of Norway and gathered a bunch of long-haired rockers, and the rest is history, as they say.
The choir is known as a colourful element in both the folk music communities and more rock-oriented music scenes alike, and their fun and engaging shows are a definite must-see for all music lovers.
4: Drunken Sailor: Derina Havery Band
Derina Harvey is a Celtic Rock group. The group offer a fresh take on traditional folk songs as well as a few originals. Derina’s vibrant personality takes centre stage with humour, storytelling, and, of course, her powerful vocals. They offer a more rock approach to traditional sea songs. This is my favourite band in this genre.
3: Sirens Song: Brave the Sea
In the summer of 2015, four guys from the small town of Newark, OH decided to form a Celtic Rock band. They cover everything from the traditional Celtic tunes to the modern renditions of bands such as Flogging Molly, Dropkick Murphys, and Alestorm. The band, at the time, was named A Pirate’s Life and took heavily to their pirate theme.
But after about a year and a few member changes/additions, A Pirate’s Life had written an album’s worth of original material and landed a full time singer. In the summer of 2016, they decided to shift course and change their name to Brave The Sea.
2: Wellerman: the Longest Johns
Wellerman was made famous by Tik Toc Nathan Evans. While I like his rendition, Wellerman was performed a while ago by the Longest Johns.
“Wellerman” refers to a supply ship from the Weller Bros., who founded a substantial whaling station in New Zealand. When a Wellerman went out to meet a whaling ship, it meant that the sailors would be given new supplies (like the “sugar and tea and rum” in the song)
1: The Last Shanty: Derina Havery Band
Lastly, this is a goody and my pick for the best sea shanty. It’s a song about modern sailors, about how a sailor is not a sailor anymore. The song goes through the different ages of sail, from the tall ships, the steamships, and now diesel-fueled ships.
Originally sang by Tom Lewis who is perhaps best known for The Last Shanty (A Sailor Ain’t A Sailor). It was an instant hit and has been recorded by over 30 different groups around the world