Blackbeard’s Tea Party

TrackAlbum
High BarbaryHeavens To Betsy
Fathom The BowlHeavens To Betsy
Doom Waltz/Aaron's KeyHeavens To Betsy
I Can HewTomorrow We'll Be Sober
The Canadian TunesTomorrow We'll Be Sober
Barrett's PrivateersTomorrow We'll Be Sober
Chicken On A RaftTomorrow We'll Be Sober
Ford O'Kabul RiverWhip Jamboree
The Four Hour ShovelWhip Jamboree
Whip JamboreeWhip Jamboree

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Contributor: Ian Ashleigh

York based Blackbeard’s Tea Party are the most exciting band I’ve seen this year. At this year’s Fairport’s Cropredy Convention they blew the Saturday afternoon apart, then admitted that the audience (at 23,000) was the largest they’d played to by a factor of 10. I immediately went to the Proper Folk tent and purchased the three CDs available. Whether you are reading this at the time of publication in late 2014 or somewhat later, go and see this band play live either in ceilidh band or concert format, you will not be disappointed. The ultimate accolade came from my daughter at the end of the set when she said, “I like them nearly as much as Mumford & Sons”, a statement that implied Jason Mraz is now relegated to 3rd place in her personal pantheon.

As the name suggests, shanties and songs associated with the sea abound as do self-penned songs in the genre and re-workings of contemporary folk songs and I hope this selection whets your appetite sufficiently to seek them out on disc and/or on stage.

The band does not use a formal drum kit a la rock band. They have two percussion players, Dave Boston and Liam ‘Yom’ Hardy. In Martin Coumbe they have a fine electric guitarist and Laura Barber is a formidable fiddle player. Originally, Paul Young fronted the band as lead singer but was replaced in 2011 by Stuart Giddens. Tim Yates completes the line-up as bass player and adds saxophone and trombone.

To date the band has released an 8 track mini-album and two full-length albums. Heavens To Betsy (2009), opens with the traditional High Barbary ‘learned from the singing of Bob Roberts’. Fathom The Bowl is another traditional song which the band heard performed by a floor singer at a folk club in Flaxton, North Yorkshire. Doom Waltz was written by Tim Yates and is joined to a traditional tune, Aaron’s Key. Heavens To Betsy also includes an interesting variation of New York Girls under the title Barrack Street. The CD was recorded to circulate to ceilidh venues but resulted in concert gigs as well.

Two years later and the band was fully formed and performing regularly but made time to record their first full length CD, Tomorrow We’ll Be Sober. I Can Hew is a contemporary collier’s song the band learned from a York-based a cappella trio, Two Black Sheep and a Stallion, to which a full instrumental backing was written. The Canadian Tunes are what they say, a set of tunes from Canada that showcase Laura Barber’s playing. Staying in northern North America, we have the classic Stan Rogers song, Barrett’s Privateers, an unofficial anthem of the Canadian Navy. And finally from this album, Cyril Tawney’s Chicken On A Raft sung with as much fun and humour as I’ve heard, even from the great Cyril himself who I was lucky enough to see play live in the late 1970s.

I have three selections left from the band’s most recent offering Whip Jamboree. Ford O’Kabul River is a poem written by Rudyard Kipling set to music by Peter Bellamy. The poem tells the story of the ill-fated 10th Hussars of the 1878-1880 Afghan War.

The Four Hour Shovel is a set of tunes written by friend-of-the-band Pip Jopling and Laura Barber when the band were playing a gig in Bath and visited the famous Roman Bath House. We end as we started with a shanty. The band heard Whip Jamboree, at a singaround during the Sidmouth Festival; the version they heard was the ‘sanitised’ version.

This is ten of the best and leaves you, at the time of writing, another 22 tracks to explore for yourself, all of which could have been included. This captures the essence of Blackbeard’s Tea Party but you really do need to see them play live.

 

Blackbeard’s Tea Party official website

Blackbeard’s Tea Party biography (Wikipedia)

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