Passed down in the oral tradition and sung traditionally as working songs, sea shanties tell the human stories of life at sea: hard graft, battling the elements, the loss of ships or pining for a lady on shore. Its pages decorated with hand-drawn or wood-cut illustrations from celebrated artist Jonny Hannah, Sailor Song addresses the current modern revival of sea shanties, and seeks to celebrate and to explore the historical, musical and social history of the traditional sea song through 40 beautiful, mournful, haunting and uplifting shanties. Acclaimed shanty devotee Gerry Smyth presents the background to each one alongside musical notation.
The lyrics are elaborated with explanations of terminology, context including historical facts and accounts of life at sea, and the characters, both fictional and non-fictional, that appear in the songs from the great age of sail to the last days of square-rig. Where appropriate, a direct digital link is made to a shanty recording in the British Library Sound Archive.