Seafaring Man

Mouth Music

2001: Skiteesh SKITT-2001-01

  1. Seafaring Man
  2. Whaling Ship
  3. Milleadh Nam Braithrean
  4. Manitoba
  5. Month of July
  6. Inveralligin
  7. Thoir A Nall Ailean Thugam
  8. Snowgatherer

This is one of the most sorrowful albums I have in my collection.

I was completely unprepared for this album. I found it at Tower Records in London (Piccadilly, actually) at the end of May 2001 as I was having an unexpected and unprepared vacation in England while waiting for an apartment back in Seattle to be vacated and cleaned for me to move into. I had all of Martin Swan’s other Mouth Music CDs up to this point and had despaired of ever hearing more of his musical gifts…then there was Seafaring Man, right there in my hands, as I nearly hyperventilated with astonishment and gratitude.

If you’re considering getting this album, for whatever reason, I want to caution you on one point: be prepared to weep. It is an anthology of songs almost redolent with the splashing of teardrops, the occasional rhythms notwithstanding. I have a hard time playing this CD now because I first heard it while lying on a bed in my tiny hotel room in London, wondering where my life was going…and immediately thereafter I had it on my mind a lot when I returned to Seattle and one of my most beloved friends died (she’d been in hospital, unbeknownst to me, during my trip, and I only found this out while checking email at an Internet café off Trafalgar Square). Ever since then, the sorrows of the time and of the album itself have intertwined and made this a gallery of exquisite memories of pain for me.

Listening to the CD in that hotel room near Russell Square I was unable to take it all in…and when I returned to the U.S. it was like a kick in the gut to hear Martin Furey sing of Puget Sound by name. It took me nearly ten months to be able to listen to this CD without crying automatically.

Having said all that, I must say it’s a joy to hear not only Martin’s genius but also Michaela’s angelic fluttering vocals. There are also some gut-wrenching moments of sonic depth here which make it impossible to listen to the bulk of the album casually (most especially “Milleadh Nam Braithrean”). God it’s beautiful though. (For a transcription and translation of the lyrics for that track, try Celtic Lyrics Corner’s website.) And then there’s “Manitoba,” which just makes me wonder what the hell inspired its lyrics.