We'll either bend or break 'er - or She'll break us!
Originally released as a vinyl LP on the Sandstock Music label in 1988, Danny Spooner's We'll either bend or break 'er was at last re-issued on CD in 2002 and is an extraordinary collection of sea shanties by this extraordinary folk singer.
With We'll either bend or break 'er, Danny Spooner takes us on a fascinating sea journey of the mind, a journey that might have started in Britain and gone on to some far-flung corner of the British Empire before returning, lasting months, which Spooner manages to compress into some forty minutes for us.
You can almost taste the salt on your lips and feel the sweat and blood of these strong hard men that toiled almost beyond endurance to fuel capitalist enterprise and profit. These sea shanties are hard working songs, designed to wrest the last bit of extra speed out of operating the tall ships that plied the oceans for empire and profit. What romance there is in these songs, is purely in the mind of the generations that have long forgotten their purpose and origins, let alone the hardship that went with them. It is not often that people of modern times listening to a shanty will think of the sheer brutality of the work that shanties accompanied, the risk to life and limb that crew were almost constantly exposed to, and the inhuman brutality they suffered at the hands of the mates. All this is brought to life by Danny Spooner's We'll either bend or break 'er, at once spine-chillingly and spine-tinglingly. Spooner's sleeve notes provide a wonderful and authoritative potted history of the shanty genre and the era in which they were used, as well as an equally authoritative account of the different types of shanties and their specific roles, illustrated by annotations to the songs on this album.
If you are looking for beautifully arranged choral harmonies, you won't find them here. Danny Spooner presents these working songs in as authentic a manner as possible. There are no formal arrangements on We'll either bend or break 'er, and what harmonies there are, are incidental because that part happened to suit the range of a singer's voice. Sea shanties have always been rough-and-ready work songs, not some form of refined choral music. And this is the genuine article, as it were, or as close as you can get to it out of the context of the actual work on a sailing vessel.
Danny Spooner's We'll either bend or break 'er tells a riveting tale, aided by Spooner's ususal perfect diction that makes it easy to follow the words. The story and the album itself is deeply moving, at least, if you have any empathy for your fellow man and his suffering it is.
A totally compelling gem, Danny Spooner's We'll either bend or break 'er is the most extraordinary, complete and satisfying recording of sea shanties that I have ever encountered. No collection of sea shanties or any form of English language folk song can ever be complete without this album.
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