A Merseyside background and her family’s strong support of the RNLI, both served to afford shanties and sea songs extra resonance to Hardingham in her formative years performing folk music. And now the tide has come in to wash up this marine-themed mini-album that, the title referring to the seven major oceans (with a song for each) and featuring Ellie McCann on banjo and mandolin, Cian Davis on electric guitar and percussionist Mark Gordon, collects both traditional and original material. Flotsam and jetsam it is not.
The opening number, ‘King Of The Boundless Deep’ (set in the South Pacific) is a pointedly revised setting of 19th century poet Joseph Edwards Carpenter’s poem The Whale, where he writes in praise of the creature’s majesty while also noting how whale oil is used for lamps. Hardingham’s slowly strummed and gradually swelling swayalong arrangement and soaring vocals reflects both the power and the underlying melancholy where, referencing whaling, she changes “sporting with ocean and wreck” to “spraying the oceans with red” and “go hand in hand/To hail him the Ocean King” to “go axe in hand/To haul in the Ocean King”.
Wholly self-penned, the Arctic track is ‘Memorial For A Glacier’, an environmental ballad written in response to blue plaques being erected in the places of fallen glaciers. Taken at an elegant a slow strummed pace tells of Jack Frost grieving his melted loving bride, she, however, swearing “to drown all the people too blind and busy too care”, the final verse being a call to action to “stand up to shout and sing/For when Greenland is melting it’s our job to stop and repair”.
Heading to the North Pacific finds the first of two shanties, an a cappella, clap and stomp take on ’Rolling Down To Old Maui’, a traditional number having its provenance in whaling songs, about returning from the Arctic ocean to the titular Hawaiian island.
One of two American folk ballads, while ‘Shenandoah’ may be about a river, bending the rules slightly it does flow into the Potomac which is on the North Atlantic coast, which seems a reasonable excuse to include this gorgeous, lush and world-weary synth and mandolin-accompanied treatment. The second, though strictly speaking a whaling song hailing from the West Indies, relocates to the South Atlantic with ‘Shallow Brown’, again given her own individual and slightly blues/gospel tinged treatment, etched out on ruminative acoustic guitar as her voice swoops and soars, with the lyrics drawn from several versions of the song along with her own additions.
The other shanty, a capstan worksong, is anchored in the Indian ocean with a rousing thigh-slapping rendition of the familiar ‘South Australia’, a revisiting of a song she recorded on her 2018 debut EP, Hardingham harmonising with herself on the “heave away, haul away” refrain, the voyage ending in the Antarctic with another self-penned, , the appropriately undulating fingerpicked swaying rhythms of ‘Follow Her Down’ which opening with the “come all ye bold sailors where’er ye may be” could easily pass as a traditional number, the lyrics referencing Captain Bartolomeu Dias, the Portuguese Captain who rounded the Cape Of Good Hope in 1488, and Amundson’s expedition to the South Pole, again touching on an environmental note.
Like the call of the sea, Seven is irresistible.
Artist’s website: www.lizzyhardingham.com
‘Rolling Down To Old Maui’ – the live lockdown version:
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