Derbyshire singer-songwriter Joe Danks set to make a splash with National Maritime Museum-inspired debut album

Singer-songwriter Joe Danks may live in Derbyshire – miles from the British coast – but the sound and smell of the sea are deeply entwined in his debut solo album.

Wednesday, 16th June 2021, 2:43 pm

Joe, of Wirksworth, found his ‘sea legs’ when he landed a year-long residency at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, as part of the English Folk Dance & Song Society’s Musicians in Museums project.

Nottingham-born Joe, formerly a member of Anglo-Irish alt-folk band Ranagri, has penned a selection of new songs inspired by stories and objects exhibited at the National Maritime Museum – from model ships to JMW Turner’s famous The Battle of Trafalgar painting.

The result is of his musicial voyage is his debut album Seaspeak – songs and stories from the National Maritime Museum, described as a “a buoyant and beautifully crafted mix of new songs, revisited traditional songs, schottisches and hornpipes”.

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Joe, who plays guitar, bodhran and melodeon, says: “I was thrilled to be selected for the residency – it was a great pleasure and privilege sourcing, writing and arranging this material.

“The collection at the museum and its Caird Library is the richest stimulus imaginable for a songwriter and arranger and I was lucky to be supported by some very fine musicians on the project.”

Recorded at Queen’s House, also part of the Royal Museums in Greenwich, Seaspeak features guest musicians Danny Pedler on accordion and hurdy gurdy, Sarah Matthews, on fiddle, viola and vocals and harpist Jean Kelly.

Joe, who himself dances with Harlequin and Makeney Morris sides, also brought in Simon Harmer who contributes step dancing on two numbers – quicksilver clogging on Quadrilles and precision footwork on the Dorsetshire Hornpipe set.

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Elephants, models and laundry

The 10-track album opens with the Sea Fever which melds two poems from John Masefield’s Salt-water Poems and Ballads – Sea Fever and Roadways.

Marking the role of the sea through history, the album includes songs about the Battle of Jutland and HMS Rawalpindi alongside the more unusual Jumbo, which tells the sad tale of the London Zoo elephant shipped to Barnum’s Circus in New York in 1882 after waiting on Millwall Dock overnight – thousands of people came to protest at his leaving.

The National Maritime Museum, at Greenwich, London,

Jutland 1916 tells the story of London laundry boy John Blackwell, one of the lesser-known casualties of the Battle of Jutland.

Joe says: “I was taken with the anonymity of many of the serviceman who lost their lives, particularly in the Great War, and wanted to connect with one individual’s story.”

A model of HMS Rawalpindi stands on the ground floor of the museum and inspired the track 308 – named after the number of crew on board the warship which sank in 1939 following a German attack.

The album is released on July 9.

Seaspeak, songs and stories from the National Maritime Museum, is released on July 9.

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