If you wanted to create an unlikely scenario, they don't arrive in any more an improbable form than Storm Weather Shanty Choir. Formed two decades ago by Haakon Vatle, their lead singer, a sailboat shipmate on a three-masted vessel, they used to introduce themselves as "the roughest toughest and youngest boy band in Norway singing 150 years old cover songs." A statement which aptly summarizes their repertoire.
Vatle has more than a passing likeness to the ruggedness of Jason Statham, and makes a dynamic focal point to their often raucous and rowdy concerts. After twenty years in existence, and seven albums, they now find themselves in the position of being "on trend," clocking up three million streams in the year of lockdown. They've had sell-out tours of Japan, the US, UK and Europe. Their genre a collision of folk, rock and a hefty smattering of choral harmony. They also are gloriously up-lifting.
When Vatle returned to the breath taking western coastline of Stord in Norway, he gathered together musicians and singers from a more rock-based background. Their sound is strong, authentic and strangely commercial.
"Hog Eye" is a shanty from America with a bawdy and largely obscenity laced history. It is also reputed to be the longest sea shanty in the genre. Their take shortens it to something akin to a country dance hoe-down with a latent suggestiveness. The song's title refers to a derogatory term used by seamen for those who only sail on inland waterways. It has an up-tempo vibe, a full bodied catchiness that is strangely modern whilst losing none of its antiquity, one that would lend itself well to a high octane remix. "Shanty Disco," being a niche that has yet to carved out.
This single is their slightly delayed anniversary release, now effectively their 21st birthday celebration. They are proof perfect that you cannot keep a good band with a good tune down. I was initially skeptical of their stance but have been won over, their enthusiasm disarming my innate reservations of a field I feared might be too folky. The line-up also includes Gisle Ostrem - lyrical tenor and bass accordion, Roald Kaldestad - lyrical tenor, mandolin and guitar, Ronny Saetre - baritone, Rune Nesse - bass and percussion and Vidar Veda - bass.
"Hog Eye" is a perfect introduction to their breezy, salt-edged back catalogue.
Raucous, with gusto, but in perfect swagger, they promise a wonderful night out, after too many nights in.