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Fattening up a fishy sound that never goes past its sell-by date

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 14, 2012

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REVIEW

Hall for Cornwall, Truro

Addicted as I am to an evening of sea-salty song in the company of Port Isaac's Fisherman's Friends, it was worth leaving them in peace for a few months just so that I could proclaim: "My, haven't they grown" – like that annoying auntie who used to pat you on the head when you were a child.

But it's true; these charming purveyors of maritime-related ditties, happy and sad, have grown since the Minack in May... and not just in their combined ages. They've got fatter, too – in sound and repertoire – easing in some new tunes to prime us for the imminent release of a 2013 album.

They've also plumped out the old with richer musical accompaniment from Billy Hawkins and his rack of stringed instruments and accordion man Jason Nicholas, who now takes his turn to sing lead on a couple of numbers he has personally chosen – Lancaster Quay and Sally Brown.

Bassman and ringmaster Jon Cleave has been cleaning out his pantry, injecting some fresh irreverence into his cheeky introductions, while retaining the best of the back catalogue. His spooky, piratey High Barbary – with the "yo-ho" chorus – is a super addition to the mix, alongside Trevor Grills' pretty and poignant pick, The Last Trawl. Elder statesman Peter Rowe, who has now turned 79, aired his own thoughts on a troubled industry in the self-penned Hard Times, Fishermen.

And let's not forget Jeremy, John and Julian Brown, John Lethbridge and Johnny MacDonnell, who were all on fine form. Between all ten, they delivered a set of gems that I could never tire of hearing again and again, especially A Drop of Nelson's Blood, Bully in the Alley, The Last Leviathan, Green Banana Johnny, Pay Me My Money Down, A Sailor Ain't a Sailor, New York Girls, Cousin Jack and, of course, South Australia. Smashing.

JACKIE BUTLER

Fisherman's Friends will join Show of Hands for a co-headlining show at the Festival Hall on London's South Bank on Sunday, February 3, 2013. Box office: 0844 875 0073. They return to the Minack Theatre at Porthcurno on Tuesday, May 14. Box office: 01736 810181.

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