Your Saturday Labour Day Listen: A Scottish-Canadian punk salute to those who sail the sea

This week’s Saturday Listen is a Labour Day visit with the Real McKenzies, a Vancouver Scottish punk band that’s been living in our head as we travel the world this month, extending a hand of solidarity to our colleagues.

We’re humming their music a lot these days — although humming isn’t really the word for what you have to do to reproduce the jackhammer that the McKenzies take to a bagpipe, guitar and set of drums. We’re “humming” them  mostly because a number of their songs are kick-ass anthems to the sea and the men and women who work it. Some are sad, some are stirring. All of them in some way salute the strength of those maritime workers.

We hope that sometime this holiday weekend, over a brutally strong cup of tea, or a tall glass of Im-Bru or McEwan’s, you’ll get a chance to listen.

Above is a link to Westwinds, one of the band’s newer CDs. It features a couple of great sea songs. One of them is The Tempest, a song of freedom and determination that you can easily imagine powering the oars of a galley (“So row row ye bastards, you never can tell/the ocean a tempest or the land a stormy hell”). Here’s a live version done in 2013 in Australia:

There’s also an incredible cover of Barrett’s Privateers. It’s a modern sea shanty written by Canada’s Stan Rogers and spins a tale of those who worked for the privateers in the 18th century. (A privateer was a private person or ship authorized by a government to attack foreign vessels during wartime. Privateering was a way of mobilizing armed ships and sailors without having vessels commissioned into regular service as warships. Crew, who were workers and not military folks, might be treated as prisoners of war by the enemy if captured.) Here’s a link to a live performance of the song by the McKenzies in 2010 in Bologna:

And finally, there’s a short, rousing song about the Bluenose, the famous racing schooner that became an icon in Nova Scotia and eventually all of Canada (and made it onto our dime in the process. For our comrades outside of Canada, our dime is our 10-cent piece, and every kid learns about the Bluenose early on by asking why that sailboat is on one side of it). Here’s the punk salute to the vessel pulled from fishing duty on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland to race into history. This version is from the Westwinds CD:




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