Jimmy Crowley   •   The Coast of Malabar

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  • The Coast of Malabar
    • 2000 - Free State Records CD Cro 008 CD (IRL)
  • Tracklist
    1. The Coast of Malabar (Trad. Arr. Jimmy Crowley)
    2. The Girls of Ballytrapeen (Trad. Arr. Jimmy Crowley)
    3. The Lowlands Low (P.J. McCall.)
    4. The Hills of Isle au Haut (Gordon Bok)
    5. St. Brendan's Fair Isle (Jimmy Driftwood)
    6. East Ferry (Jimmy Crowley)
    7. Fiddlers Green (John Conolly)
    8. The Lady Leroy (Trad. Arr. Jimmy Crowley)
    9. Titanic Queenstown (Jimmy Crowley)
    10. My True Love she is Beautiful (Trad. Arr. Jimmy Crowley)
    11. My Love is a Tall Ship (Jimmy Crowley)
    12. The Wild Caribee (Jerry O'Neill)
    13. The Balaena (Trad. Arr. Jimmy Crowley)
    14. Sailortown (Bill Meek)

  • Musicians
    • Jimmy Crowley, Vocals, Bouzouki, Dordán, Mandolin, Mandola, Mando Cello
    • Tríona Ní Dhómhnaill, Vocals
    • Niall Ó Callanáin, Bouzouki, Mando Cello, Bouzouki-Bass
    • Mick Murphy, Mandolin
    • Ray Barron, Mandolin
    • Tony Canniffe, Vocals
    • Mary Canniffe, Backing Vocals
    • Tim Canniffe, Backing Vocals
    • Dermot Canniffe, Backing Vocals
  • Credits
    • Produced by Niall Ó Callanáin and Jimmy Crowley
    • Recorded at Ray Barron's Studio, Douglas, Cork
    • Engineered by Ray Barron
    • Assistant Engineer: Justin Forbes
    • Mixed by Niall Ó Callanáin
      • Except "The Girls of Ballytrapeen", mixed by Ray Barron
    • Mastered at Mid-Atlantic Studios, Enniskillen by Robyn Robins
    • Photography: John Sheehan

Sleeve Notes

My love affair with the sea began with a stint as a trainee on board the Irish sail training brigantine, Asgard 2. This album is a collection of the sea songs I love best and represents an ongoing body of work drawn from newly composed ballads to fresh arrangements of traditional ones. Feeling that sea shanties are well represented in the recorded work of other folk singers, a choice was made to feature the romantic nature of the sea as a living force which has both separated and united the people of these islands and America for many years.

It was a joy to work with bouzouki maestro, Niall Ó Callanáin, whose skill as a producer and consummate musician was a source of comfort and delight. I thank him for going along with my crazy notion of working exclusively with musical arrangements on the mandolin family instruments such as bouzouki, mandola, mandocello: many of them of great antiquity, as well as a new instrument designed specially by Dublin luthier Joe Foley, called a dordán or bass bouzouki.

So, this album fulfils a twofold role, celebrating, the romance of ships, boats and the power of the ocean over all our lives on the one hand and paying tribute to the great luthiers like Stefan Sobell, Joe Foley, Andy Manson, Dave Farmiloe, Oakwood bouzoukis who make Niall's instruments, Ibanez and Washburn and the great craftsmen and innovators like Lloyd Loar who worked for the Gibson guitar and mandolin company in the States.

Finally, I am grateful to Tommy Munnelly who kindly provided additional information on some of the older ballads.

Jimmy Crowley, April 2000

The Coast of Malabar — A Victorian love song which I first heard from my mother, who sang it to us as a lullaby. Padjo Sweeny of Blarney, Co. Cork, singer and melodeon player, filled in the verse my mother couldn't remember.

The Girls of Ballytrapeen — I was sitting having a cool cider one hot day in the beer tent at the Dartmoor Folk Festival with Cyril Tawney, telling him about this album. He told me I would have to include this forgotten Cork harbour song which Cyril recorded in the late fifties from Tim Walsh, a sailing ship man from Cobh.

The name Ballytrapeen seems to have disappeared from general use but must have applied to that part of Cork Harbour east of the famous "Holy Ground" on the way up to East Ferry. The "Green Boats "were like waterbuses which once plied the harbour towns like Ahada, Queenstown and of course Ballytrapeen.

The Lowlands Low — One of the wonderful stirring songs of P.J. McCall from Wexford who wrote some historical ballads such as Boolavouge, Follow me up to Carlow and Kelly the Boy from Killan. To this day, the ancestors of the Wild Geese who left after the defeat of Sarsfteld rather than live in an anglicised Ireland are famous for wine production. Among them are some distant relatives of mine on my mothers side, the Lawtons, who keep a famous chateau in Bordeaux, France.

The Hills of Isle au Haut — Written by Cordon Bok of Maine, U.S.A. who shares a passion with me for old sailing boats and coastal craic and taught to me by Tony Canniffe.

St. Brendan's Fair Isle — I learned this song from my good friend Mick Moloney, when we cut a tour of the States together in the early nineties. It was written by the American musician and folklorist, Jimmy Driftwood, a former history teacher who turned historical highlights into wonderful songs: ";The Battle of New Orleans" being another one which springs to mind.

East Ferry — I have a little sailboat called Nora Lee and I take her round the coast to West Cork in the summer, but she's in Cork Harbour most of the time. I was trying to time-freeze a wonderful day with three good friends on board on the passage from Crosshaven to the pretty harbour of East Ferry, a regular watering hole where we sometimes have a session and stay overnight and try and solve all the problems of existence.

Fiddlers Green — I have a wonderful memory of a beautiful moonlit night in the sixties on my first trip out to Sherkin Island in West Cork. When I entered The Jolly Rodger, fiddler Seamus Creagh and his band were playing this new song and the context has always haunted me. I subsequently had the great pleasure of meeting the author, John Conolly, at a folk Club in the North Sea coast of England two years ago.

The Lady Leroy — The folksong tradition of these islands and America is full of female sailor motifs. Often, ladies took to the sea dressed as sailors and risked everything rather than be separated from their lovers. Phil Callery of Dublin gave me this song the generic title being Laws N5. It appears in John Harrington Coxs Folksongs of The South, and versions have turned up in Virginia and Illinois, often credited to Irish grandparents.

Titanic Queenstown — This song was commissioned by Vince Keaney, proprietor of the Titanic Queenstown Centre at Cobh, Co. Cork. He particularly wanted me to make mention of Margaret Rice of Athlone who was lost with her daughters when the ship collided with the iceberg off Cape Race, Newfoundland. Eugene Daly actually piped the tender America out of Cork Harbour to join the "Queen of the White Star Line" as she lay at her last anchorage near Ringabclla at the mouth of Cork Harbour.

My True Love she is Beautiful — Almost every ballad group in Ireland in the sixties sang a version of this song called, Blow Ye Winds. This interesting Ulster version was kindly given to me by Len Graham. Despite the superficial jollity, the reference to the 'government band around her leg' is unnerving and must have referred to the days when men and women too were transported to the Antipodes, sometimes for very menial crimes.

My Love is a Tall Ship — My own stint as a trainee sailor aboard the brigantine Asgard 2 set the scene for this song. I wanted to escape post-modernism and about the only place this possible anymore is at sea, working on a sailing ship where timeless, primal elements still reign.

The Wild Caribee — This song reminded me of what the uncensored version of Treasure Island, might be tike when first I heard it sung, in Cork city by its author, former ships' wireless operator, Jerry O Neill. I was immediately captivated by the far-away, romantic elements and in no small way by Jerry's delivery of the song

The Balaena — Another glorious day on board Nora Lee in Cork Harbour with Scotsman Bobby Robb and Tony Canniffe, and the pair of them started singing this song about a much loved whaling vessel out of Dundee which plied the lucrative trade to St. Johns, Newfoundland. This industry took a heavy toll on the fleet and many vessels perished in the ice, among them the bonny ship, The Diamond.

Sailortown — Sailortown was my original title for this album and I love the bitter-sweet almost ships motion effect of the lyrics by Bill Meek from North Lincolnshire, friend and colleague of John Conolly who wrote Fiddlers Green.