The Leaving of Liverpool

April 26, 2017 11:21 PM

I had a great time collaborating with billiebee on a cover of this traditional folk song/sea shanty. The goal was to record a simple arrangement that was different from the more lively covers out there -- to borrow billiebee's phrase, a gentler version. I'm hoping our rendition highlights the lovely melody of the song.

Recorded February-April 2017 (except field recording noted below).

* Lead vocals by billiebee

* Guitars, backing vocals, arr. and mix by rangefinder 1.4

* Sea sounds excerpted from "Ebbing tide on the mersey estuary 2.WAV" by crosbychris on freesound.org. Licensed under Creative Commons Attibution 3.0 Unported License. "Recorded in February 2009 on Crosby beach, north of Liverpool in the Mersey estuary."

Here are my bonus liner notes (I hope billiebee will add a note in-thread as well):

We started mulling over ideas in January; since billiebee and I are both fans of vocal harmonies, we decided to choose a song that could feature them. Luckily when I suggested "The Leaving of Liverpool" it turned out she already knew the song. Since she had a much longer history with it, I asked her to choose her preferred verses from the various ones we found. I knew things would work out well when I heard her initial sample singing a portion of the song -- she seemed to know exactly the tempo and style I was going for, even before I gave her a guide track!

* This is the first time I've sung more than one backing harmony part, and also the first time I've sung harmonies for anyone besides me (for a real project, I mean -- not counting the times I've sung along to my favorite recordings by other folks...). Since I sing by ear (sight-reading music is not one of my skills), it was a fun learning experience. Hearing billiebee's wonderful voice really made me want to rise to the occasion and try to be better with my own singing. The lower part was a bit out of my range so I hope it sounds okay.

* Since the song lyrics are from the point of view of the person leaving, the instrumental solo is something I sort of hear as a response from the person who has to stay and is being supportive/outwardly positive during the goodbye, even though it grieves them too. Just my take on it -- YMMV.

* The source of the seashore sounds (say that 3x fast) in the coda was a nice bonus -- while searching on Freesound for ocean sounds to mix in, I thought it was super cool when I found field recordings actually from the Liverpool/Mersey area.

* For folk music nerds: "The Leaving of Liverpool" is Roud Folk Index 9435 and dates back to the mid-late 19th century. According to the entry on Wikipedia, the various lyrics seem to fall under two main themes: going away to be a sailor, and -- the one we went with -- going away to be a migrant worker. The tune first caught my ear around the holidays when I heard it by Dan Zanes (from his album Sea Music), and I enjoyed listening to a bunch of the different variations/verses from other covers on YouTube. I think billiebee mentioned growing up with a version by the Dubliners.

* Shout out to Karlos the Jackal, who essentially produced the last sea shanty I collaborated on, and inspired the basic structure for this recording.

Most importantly, special thanks and high five to billiebee: thanks for lending your talent, for your patience and encouragement, and for your time in working with me on this! Let me know when you want to do another collab. :)

posted by rangefinder 1.4 (11 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

Lyrics sung in this version:
Fare thee well to Princes Landing Stage*
River Mersey, fare thee well
I am bound for California,
A place I know right well

[Chorus:]
So, fare thee well, my own true love
When I return, united we will be
It's not the leaving of Liverpool that grieves me
But my darling when I think of thee

Fare thee well to lower Frederick Street
Anson Terrace and Park Lane
For I think it will be a long, long time
Before I see you again

[Repeat chorus]

I am off to California
By way of stormy Cape Horn
And I will write you a letter, love
When I am homeward bound

[Repeat chorus]

Oh, the sun is on the harbour, love
And I wish I could remain
For I know it will be a long, long time
Before I see you again

[Repeat chorus 2x]
(*Not sure whether it's Princes or Princes' or Prince's)
posted by rangefinder 1.4 at 11:28 PM on April 26


That's really lovely - and rightfully, the sea applauds you at the end. Beautiful!
posted by the quidnunc kid at 6:04 AM on April 27 [2 favorites]


This is great! So sweetly sung and played. <3
posted by limeonaire at 7:06 AM on April 27 [2 favorites]


Thanks for posting this rangefinder 1.4! It was lovely to work on it with you. (I say work - I sat on the couch and did a wee bit of singing, rangefinder 1.4 did all the excellent playing, arranging, mixing, harmonies and posting! Not to mention sprinkling her magic dust over my vocals.) International collaborations ftw :)
posted by billiebee at 10:11 AM on April 28 [2 favorites]


Aww that's very kind of you -- thanks, everyone!

Heh, I hadn't thought about the sea as "applause" but I now hear it and am both humbled and delighted. Vote #1QK!

billiebee, your voice already has magic dust so all I did was try to emphasize that a little more. Also please thank your partner and nieces for me again!

The time I spent on this over the past few months was a welcome retreat amidst Life Stuff, and I'm really glad it all worked out.
posted by rangefinder 1.4 at 6:57 PM on April 28 [1 favorite]


Quite lovely.
posted by Devils Rancher at 4:41 PM on April 29 [2 favorites]


Wow, great job.
posted by chococat at 9:57 PM on April 30 [2 favorites]


Goosebumps!
posted by mochapickle at 3:21 PM on May 2 [2 favorites]


Fantastic!
posted by Flippervault at 10:10 PM on May 10 [2 favorites]


Soothing. High lonesome harmonizing works really well. You succeeded in emphasizing the tune quite handsomely.
posted by AppleSeed at 3:38 PM on May 19 [2 favorites]


This is gorgeous! billiebee, your voice is lovely and ethereal.
posted by ellieBOA at 6:21 AM on June 9 [2 favorites]


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