Fisherman’s Friends performing their Keep Hauling Tour at The Town Hall Birmingham on Friday 14th February 2020

Images and Review by Kevin Cooper

In 1995 a group of men which included a builder, fisherman, film maker and the owner of a small holding, decided to get together to raise money for charity by performing sea shanties most Friday evenings near the beach in a small fishing village on the Atlantic coast of north Cornwall called Port Issac.

Since then the current nine group members have never looked back. Whilst many things have changed since their conception; the 2013 accident that resulted in the death of singer Trevor Grills and their manager Paul McMullen, there have been a lot of positives. They have released seven albums, had a very successful film made about them and were the first traditional folk act to land a UK top ten album position.

And last night the Fisherman’s Friends brought their original and honest folk and sea shanty songs to a capacity filled Town Hall and delivered a set that was entertaining from the off.

Accompanied just by guitars and an accordion their first set included the jaunty Leave Her Johnny Leave Her, Sugar In The Hold mashed up with Hit The Road Jack, Roll The Woodpile Down and the fabulous John Kanaka which had the audience singing along.

With each of the tracks being led by a different member of the group, this served to show the level of teamwork that goes to make Fisherman’s Friends the quality act that they are.

The second set saw them offer such variety. One minute they were singing a capella, filling the Hall with waves of incredible harmonies, the next clapping along encouraging the audience to join in on the likes of Blow The Man Down.

With the acoustic guitar providing a folkier feel to the songs and the accordion adding a mellower, traditional sound, they delivered their shanties which were ringing with a unity that a good work song needs whilst their ballads and laments were full of grief.

From their latest album, Keep Hauling, they treated the audience to the likes of The Union Of Different Kinds, Oh You New York Girls and Little Liz I Love You, and with their interpretation of a cover of Show Of Hands Cousin Jack being arguably better than the original, the two hour set flew by.

Each song was introduced by a different member of the group and the between song banter helped the set flow, but it was their magical harmonies, the depth of their baritones and lyrical lilt of their tenors that were simply magnificent. And by the time the closing songs of Drunken Sailor and South Australia came, the audience were on their feet singing along.

It was a wholesome, enjoyable and memorable evening providing moments that if you closed your eyes, it felt as though you were sitting facing that little bay in Port Issac.