album reviews

Great Big Sea
The Hard and the Easy
Zoe (2005)

The Great Big Sea's sailor shanty style reflects the group's Newfoundland home so jovially that an album made solely of local and traditional tunes is a logical choice. Many of the tracks on "The Hard and the Easy," which also contains a bonus DVD, sound perfect for a drunken singalong: "The Mermaid" bemoans the anatomical limitations of dating a sea creature, while "Cod Liver Oil" blends rowdiness and jealousy with a dramatic, swaying rhythm. "Captain Kidd" captures a pirate's rebellious spirit, and the traditional "Come and I Will Sing You (The Twelve Apostles)" is a counting song that evokes both "The 12 Days of Christmas" and "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall."

The group does break from its rambunctious sound for a few mellower songs, to varied success. The sweet, loving lyrics of "Graceful & Charming (Sweet Forget Me Not)" seem incongruous to the rest of the album, but "Harbour Lecou" balances a restrained melody with a whimsically ironic tale of an adulterer who feels regret only in being caught.

The group's charisma culminates on "Concerning Charlie Horse," a galloping sendoff to a horse that has drowned in a frozen pond, originally written by Icelandic Canadian Omar Blondahl. The song is so catchy and bouncy that it's easy to envision the group belting out the boisterous chorus, with glasses lifted in jolly-good-fellow tribute: "Here's to Charlie horse and I wants ye all to know/Charlie's gone to the big corral where all good horses go."

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post: 28 April 2006, Page WE06
.: The Hard and the Easy on