FolkWorld #72 07/2020
© Dai Woosnam

Fisherman’s Friends

The Rock ‘n’ Roll of 1752

Folk Music on the Silver Screen: Fisherman’s Friends @ Shrewsbury Folk Festival 2018.

Keep Hauling - Music from the Movie

Keep Hauling | Nelson's Blood | John Kanaka | The Cost Of High Barbary | South Australia | Little Liz I Love You | Widow Woman | Le Capitaine De San Malo | Blow The Man Down | Shanty Man | Oh You New York Girls | The 'Trelawny' National Anthem | The Leaving Shanty | No Hopers Jokers & Rogues | Fisherman's Blues | (What Shall We Do With The) Drunken Sailor | Union Of Different Kinds

"Keep Hauling - Music from the Movie", Island Records, 2019

I recently – in lockdown boredom – attempted to get some value for money from the eight quid a month we pay for Amazon I had been seduced into wasting after they hijacked the EPL soccer fixtures one day over last Christmas...a sprat to catch a mackerel, one fancies...since they have shown no live soccer since.

And in my search I dug out the movie Fisherman’s Friends...which I had resisted going to see when it appeared in my local cinema last year.

Oh dear...what a mistake. Desperately poor...with no saving graces other than a very pretty actress with the improbable first name of Tuppence. She is miscast mind you...her diction is far too posh for a local girl in St Isaac, Cornwall, and her little daughter is even more miscast: she sounds like her name’s been put down for Roedean. (And talking of miscasting: you can add the chap playing the record company executive. Never inhabited the role for 2 minutes.)

Here is the trailer to this deeply flawed movie...and like most trailers, makes it look better than it is...
I salute them for the one good line in the movie there, viz...
“What kind of music were they singing?”
~“The rock ‘n’ roll of 1752”
But even that is clunky, in that it is a response to a stupid question coming from a supposedly on-the-ball music executive. Not in a thousand years would such a chap ask “what kind of music were they singing?”

The whole movie is a stinker, and the scriptwriters and casting director should be publicly flogged.

But the real group of shantymen themselves, are a different kettle of (ouch!) They are the real deal, alright...although some Folkie friends of mine tell me they are too slick by far...and then find fault with all sorts of things like seeking an easy cheer with an anti-Trump line, to having individual microphones.

The latter doesn’t bother me one iota: and as for the former...are you surprised given the herd mentality of Folk audiences? Of course Trump is a coarse bully and a pathological liar...but then so is Biden to a degree. He is a proven plagiarist, a sniffer of young womens’ hair, a corrupt nepotist (with his ill-qualified son Hunter being paid a fortune by the Ukrainians in an appointment daddy put him into ...shades of Trump!!) ...but that said, you would never get a joke against a Democrat from a Folk Audience...well not since Governor George Wallace died, at least...

Anyway, as I say, I thought I would go to the real singing wash that movie sludge from my memory...and here they are at the Shrewsbury Folk Festival. They really give good value...even if they get my goat from the first moment when their leader addresses the audience as “SHROWS-bury/SHREWS-bury”...
...there’s no need for that. Quite gratuitous.

To people born in the fabulous town (a town I have long said, is the most underrated, and one of the nicest, in all England) is always SHREWS-bury. Only incomers, and snobby Folkies who think that SHROWS-bury sounds more authentic, embark on uttering this aberration.

They immediately identify themselves as dunces.

Fisherman's Friends: Sole Mates

Blow the Man Down | Oh You New York Girls | Jamaica Farewell / Green Banana Johnny | Whip Jamboree | The Leaving of Liverpool | The Bonny Ship the Diamond | Being a Pirate | Stormalong John | Cap'n Stormio | Strike the Bell | The Mermaid | The Padstow Leaving Shanty

Fisherman's Friends "Sole Mates", Cod And Chips, 2018

For the town in the UK most redolent of Shrewsbury, I would suggest going north of the border, to the splendid Dumfries in Scotland. But Shrewsbury edges out Dumfries on its sheer number of really ancient buildings with preservation orders on them.

Anyway, back to FF in concert. They really earn their money, and work their butts off. Jon the moustachioed baldie on the end, is an irritating bugger, but gee he is good...whether it be the guttural sounds he makes, or his occasional fine bass notes he hits.

But the two non-St Isaac guys (from nearby Padstow) are the true engine room: the fabulous piano accordion boy, and next to him, Toby the handsome young guy with a guitar (and a brilliant high tenor harmony). Without those two, the group would be a shadow of what they are today.

I see here they close their set with (Bound For) South Australia. Inspired choice...that shanty never fails.

I note that I referred there to the prospect of... what if the two guys in the engine room were to leave? In truth of course, this band of brothers would still survive and evolve...
after all, they lost Trevor Grills their best singer – in an horrific freak accident when a massive steel door fell on Trevor, also killing one of their management - in 2013...and yet overcame their grief and built an even greater reputation.

Here is Trevor in his most famous solo: a song written by Andy ? from Milton Keynes...please google on my behalf...his surname has just slipped my mind...

BTW...did you notice that it was not in their set there at Shrewsbury? They have retired it, presumably. And instead we have a famous pro-whaling song, The Bonnie Ship The Diamond.

Well personally, I always found The Last Of The Great Whales (also more popularly known as The Last Leviathan) – a song that anthropomorphises whales and the cruelty done to them – rang hollow coming from a group that includes fishermen who often gut fish while they are still alive.

And before signing off this item on this execrable film... Thinking of the aforementioned delectable Tuppence Middleton...I cannot wait for her celebrating her nuptials with my fellow Welshman, Leigh Halfpenny, the rugby player...
Then I can call her tuppence ha’penny*...!! (Boom, boom.)

* Dear rugby fans, please do not spoil my rather obvious joke by pointing out that that Leigh actually pronounces his name ...HALF-penny... I have a great capacity to laugh at my own jokes...please don’t deny me my fun...

Photo Credits: (1)-(3) Fisherman’s Friends (unknown/website).

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