Sea Shanty

from by Colouratura

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    Autographed by composer and performer Nathan James!

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about

"Sea Shanty" is another one of the earliest recordings we made, yet the version you hear here is NOT the original.

Almost up until the very end we had a well-fleshed out demo version that was essentially guitar and various overdubs. I believe it was one of the first, if not the very first session Nate and I did together. It was kind of a grueling session and patched together, but the result was convincing - with a few 'noticeable to us' technical errors ...

It also ran some 8 minutes which we felt was a little long in the tooth. The original structure idea of the album was to have the first side entirely devoid of drums, but when we were listening back to the album, we decided "Sea Shanty" was the weakest number and needed 'spruced' up a little.

I think we mutually agreed that a rhythm section and some edits to the parts were needed. I think we may have increased the tempo a few clicks.

This track stands out on Colouratura as the only tune recorded 'live.' Ryan Smurthwaite and Brandon Collins on guitar and drums, respectively, were kind enough to spend a late night with Nate on bass and me on the board recording about 6 takes of this beast - completely 100% live backing tracks. I'm not exaggerating when I say it's one of the most fun sessions I've ever had in my life. I still have all of them and even the early ones are a joy to listen to.

One of my favorite 'studioisms' comes from this session. I have a tendency to invent 'Oblique Strategies' of my own on the spot in the spirit of Brian Eno and the one that stems from this session was inspired by the 'circus' bit. "Play a little ahead of the beat, think funny music!" I don't think this section was as dramatic in the demo, but I imagined this as sort of the Muffins / Samla Mammas Manna 'oom chuck' section. It was a blast!

Later, Nate overdubbed the lead vocals in one take onto a Shure SM58 (particularly impressive when you think of some of the leaps in this song) and I think he overdubbed the organs and bass solo on his own (a note for note reproduction of the original demo) and sent them to me for treatments.

Now for those of you who have the CDs, you probably are wondering what exactly are 'treatments'? In my brain, these are the little manipulations involved in 'sculpting' the sound or sound 'aesthetic'. It's not a million miles away from Ennossification, but I don't want to put myself in the same boat as the master ... ;-)

In this case, many of my treatments involved doing funny little tricks in post production on the vocals (to get them to sound like Nate was singing by the seaside) and also on the organ and bass solos. As soon as I heard the roll on the organ, I thought Nate was challenging Wakeman, so distortion and fuzz was added to give it a 'Roundabout' feel. In the bass solo, I was shooting for a Hugh Hopper meets "Animals" sound. Distortion and delay. Bass IS the lead, man! Don't know if I got it, but sometimes 'near misses' are more interesting ...

This also goes with my theory that Nathan is constantly remaking music he's never heard. There's something pure Robert Wyatt / early Softs about his 'no guitar' (or little guitar) 'focus on vocals, keys and bass!' approach, not to mention the "Sea Shanty" / "Sea Song" connection and his incredible songwriting chops and knack for layering complex harmonies with his voice. The phrase 'accidental Canterbury' has been thrown around more than once to describe this piece. Nate still has no idea what I'm talking about.

lyrics

Far,
far away from shore
I found a love
older than time.
A love between a man and the sea.

Far,
far away from shore
a man
is truly free,
To find what he has always wanted to be.

Chorus
For what is a man, if he's not really free?
And what is human without dreams and destiny?
Find yourself there,
don't be afraid.
The wind and the waves are your home.

There,
there beyond the storm
lies the end,
the end of the line
for you,
and your men -
in the deep.

There,
past the pounding tides
is the end
of the world's desires,
and there
you can truly
start anew.

Chorus

Far,
far away from shore
I found a love
older than time.
A love,
between a man
and the sea.


Far,
far away from shore -
a man
is truly free,
to find
his dreams
and his destiny.

credits

from Colouratura, released June 16, 2017
Nathan James - bass, voice, organ, strings
Ryan Smurthwaite - guitar
Brandon Collins - drums, whistle
Ian Beabout – treatments

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Colouratura Wheeling, West Virginia

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