With over 7,000 kilometres of coastline, it’s little surprise that music from the Canadian province of Nova Scotia is heavily influenced by the sea. This music is called ‘East Coast’ and represents the styles of music hailing from the Atlantic coast of Canada, bluntly put it’s a blend of maritime-folk with a heavy dose of Celtic-influenced sea shanties with tales of sailors, sea journeys and celebrating a safe return.
One would imagine this is the type of music that would travel from port to port, from Southampton to the boat yards of Newcastle or Belfast and Dublin and then on to who knows where across the Atlantic to find itself in the bars and haunts of the fishermen. The music is foot stomping, catchy and surprisingly engaging but this isn’t a matter of a one trick pony with the same thing being repeated over the course of the 11 songs on offer. Of course there are the worker songs, the songs that accompany the repetitive motion of rowing or hauling ropes, songs gangs of workers would sing to pass the time, but there are ballads, shanties and a rip-roaring folk-rock song in ‘Been Away’ and the final song, a fiddle medley could have been recorded from a Friday night ceilidh where the drinks are sinking and the promises are being made to a loved one or to the ocean itself.
At first listen it’s a thigh-slapping affair, allow the mood and songs to draw you in and you’ll be hearing the cold Atlantic slapping against the pebbled beaches, but given further listens and the lyrics and stories will take hold, the tall tales of maritime tradition, the craggy men of the sea and men who wish to return from the oceans grasp yet know their legs won’t stay on firm land for too long without hearing her temptations.
Jimmy Rankin is a bit of a traditionalist where this music is involved, having grown up in Nova Scotia, he travelled and settled down in Nashville but it’s clear his heart lies among the salt and surf because he’s unashamedly produced an album not only celebrating the geography of the place but also the tradition, and influences, of the sea traveller, there are bagpipes, mandolin and a ‘gang’ choir that give the whole feel a sing-a-long quality. If you like folk music, then this might be a nice detour to take from the norm, also, if you like song writers with a grasp on their history writing traditional songs about a time and lifestyle we know little of, definitely give this a try.