William Pint & Felicia Dale,
White Horses
(Waterbug, 2001)

Sea shanties and other ocean-going songs are the mainstay of White Horses from William Pint and Felicia Dale. The exuberant arrangements make this CD particularly appealing, highlighted with the unusual sound of Dale's hurdy-gurdy.

Pint provides vocals and plays guitars, mandolins, keyboards and bodhran; in addition to hurdy-gurdy, Dale sings and plays whistles and bodhran. They're supported by Nancy Wharton on cello, Matt Eggleston on electric bass and Dalton Davis on drums. Jim "Silver Sewerpipe" Bachman and Jason "Cabin Boy" Brinkley chip in on the chorus of the final track, "The Sea."

There's plenty of variety on White Horses. The CD gets off to a merry start with "Cape Cod Girls," which deviates from the traditional melody and features robust harmonies. The tone turns somber with "Davey Lowston," a song that tells of a doomed sealing expedition. The hurdy-gurdy has a mournful sound and Wharton's cello wells up expressively. The result is emotionally resonant. The contrast between the two tracks is dramatically marked.

"Twiddles" by Janie Meneely is a wonderfully wicked song about the women that the sailors and sea captains leave behind. "Do we sit at home and twiddle thumbs until our men come home?" sings Dale. "Oh there's other things to twiddle when a girl's left on her own." It's a clever song that tells the other side of the equation of the sailor with a girl in every port: "If you added up two and two you'd figure out right quick/That it's just because the lassies have a lad on every ship."

Pint and Dale rock and reel on "One More Day," a sea song given a back beat and a bass line, not to mention nifty riffs on the hurdy-gurdy. This lively track provides welcome relief from the grim and haunting "Bring 'em Down," which precedes it.

It's followed by a set of two hornpipes, "The Humors of Ballyconnell/Tom of the Mountains" which allows the duo to show off the instrumental side of their talent. Other tracks of note include -- but are not limited to -- "Pique la Baleine," a whaleboat rowing shanty, "Johnny Todd," and the poignant, lovely title track "White Horses (Are Calling Me)," which begins with a tune "Metal Man" performed on the pennywhistle. "Leave Her Johnny" is an upbeat rousing shanty and they close with the utterly nonsensical "The Sea."

Pint's expressive voice has an appealing and warm timbre. Dale's voice is equally expressive and versatile, whether standing out on a solo or meshing with Pint in harmony. The arrangements tend to bring out the best in their performances, and overall, this CD is a bracing as a brisk sea breeze.

[ by Donna Scanlon ]
Rambles: 2 February 2002