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Shallow Brown

[ Roud 2621 ; Ballad Index Doe044 ; trad.]

This West Indies sea shanty demonstrates the close link between sea shanties and slave songs. It was collected by Cecil Sharp and by Stan Hugill who included it in his Shanties from the Seven Seas (1961).

H.E. Piggott and Percy Grainger collected Shallow Brown from the singing of John Perring of Dartmouth on January 18, 1908, and Grainger subsequently composed an arrangement of this song between August and December 1910, as is shown in the film Passion (1999), which is based on Grainger's life. Grainger himself commented:

[Perring] was a remarkably gifted deep-sea sailor songster and said that this song was supposed to be sung by a woman standing on the quay to Shallow Brown as his ship was weighing anchor. Perring did not know why Brown was called “Shallow”—“unless it was that he was shallow in his heart”, as he added. My setting aims to convey a suggestion of wafted, wind-borne, surging sounds heard at sea.

Peter Bellamy sang Shallow Brown around 1983 with the Watersons. A recording from a private tape in the Fellside Recordings archive was released in 1999 on the Peter Bellamy retrospective Wake the Vaulted Echoes.

Tony Hall sang Shallow Brown on his 1977 Free Reed album, Fieldvole Music, and Pete and Chris Coe recorded it in 1979 for their album Game of All Fours. The latter album's sleeve notes commented:

Shallow Brown was learned many years ago from Stan Hugill's book Shanties from the Seven Seas. Chris, not being a shanty-man, adapted it into its present, slower form with Stan's approval.

June Tabor recorded Shallow Brown in 1997 for her album Aleyn. She commented in the sleeve notes:

Originally a pumping shanty of West Indian origin, sometimes sung as Challo Brown, challo being Carib for half-casts. Thanks to Chris Coe, who first transformed this piece, to Tony Hall, from whom I learned it, and to Martin Simpson, who furthered its transformation.

Coope Boyes & Simpson also do this beautifully on their CD Hindsight (No Masters NMCD 11, 1998).

The united family of Norma Waterson (singing lead), Eliza and Martin Carthy, Oliver Knight, Marry, Mike and Anne Waterson sang Shallow Brown in 2010 on Eliza and Norma's CD Gift. They commented in their liner notes:

A work song that has been turned into a beautiful lament for family and home. We didn't learn it from Sting. But we did have to get our family in for a good sing at some point, so here we are, clearing our throats. Another song we sing because of Hal [Willner]. He certainly does know a good tune when he sees one.

Lyrics

Peter Bellamy and the Watersons sing Shallow Brown June Tabor sings Shallow Brown

I'm bound away for to leave you
    Shallow oh shallow brown
I'm bound away for to leave you
    Shallow oh shallow brown

Bound away to leave you
    Shallow oh shallow brown
Bound away to leave you
    Shallow oh shallow brown

I'm bound away for St George's
I'm bound away for St George's

Because I am signed for a sailor
And I'm shipped on board a whaler

I truly love you Juliana
I truly love you Juliana

My master say he's going to sell me
He say he sell me to a Yankee

Master's going to sell me
Sell me to a Yankee

He say he sell me for a dollar
For that great big Spanish dollar

Sell me for a dollar
Great big Yankee dollar

I think I will climb them distant mountains
I'll try to find them crystal fountains

You know my packet she sails tomorrow
And my heart is filled with sorrow

Fare thee well Juliana
Fare thee well Juliana

I'm bound away for to leave you
I'm bound away for to leave you

Bound away to leave you
Bound away to leave you

The Watersons sing Shallow Brown

Fare the well, my Julianna
    Shallow oh shallow brown
Fare the well, my Julianna
    Shallow oh shallow brown

We are leaving in the morning
We are leaving in the dawning

Now my babies they do grieve me
Now my babies they do grieve me

Now my husband he does grieve me
And it breaks my heart to leave thee

Fare the well, my Julianna
Fare the well, my Julianna

Acknowledgements

Transcribed by Wolfgang Hell and Garry Gillard.

See also the Mudcat Café thread Recordings of Shallow Brown.