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Chris Smith: Words & Music

Song: Short Jacket and White Trousers

(Angela Mariani with Chris Smith (mandola, mandolin), Randal Bays (fiddle), Roger Landes (bouzouki))
2005-09-08
An English-language song, originally from the unaccompanied singing of June Tabor, who got it from A.L. (Bert) Lloyd, technically only a passable singer but a formidable artistic and political presence in the early English folk revival, and, with Ewan MacColl, a strong influence on Martin Carthy, Tabor, Dave Swarbrick, and a host of other English folkies. This song is another of those “cross-dressing sailor songs,” wherein (in various versions), Boy loves Girl, Boy tells Girl he’s going away to sea, Girl decides to dress up in “man’s array” and follow him. In the longer, gorier versions, Girl discovers Boy has fallen in love with/married/become engaged to Other Girl, and either kills him, or only threatens to. In this shorter version, Girl just causes Sea Captain to drastically re-examine his sexual orientation. Owes a lot to Planxty, and to the fantastic Andy Irvine/Paul Brady duo disc from 1975. But I suspect there’s a little Fairport Convention lurking somewhere back there, as well.