There is no other band like Great Big Sea. Known for their high-energy shows, this Newfoundland band (Alan Doyle, Bob Hallett, and Sean McCann) tout their influences proudly. Traditional tales of sailing, pirates, lumberjacking, and adultery wrapped around Celtic-inspired music have characterized the band since their first album in 1993. The Hard and the Easy is their ninth album and is a fine contribution to their legacy.
The album opens with Come And I Will Sing You, one of the oldest songs from Newfoundland. Going back to medieval times, this counting song is similar to The 12 Days of Christmas. The album picks up pace with Old Polina, a rocking sea shanty and love song to a whaling ship.
The album is probably unique in that it has two songs about horses falling through ice on barely frozen lakes while pulling logs to the lumberjack camps. In Concerning Charlie Horse, a group of close friends go out to the lake in the spring to retrieve the body of Charlie, who had fallen through earlier in the winter. "Charlie was a very good man, although he'd been a horse. Here's to Charlie Horse. Here's to Shave the Master. No better horse ran the course or pulled the logs more faster." The song was reminiscent of the rowdy tribute The Night Pat Murphy Died on Great Big Sea's 1998 album Rant and Roar. In contrast, the album closer Tickle Cove Pond is more a more bittersweet tale of heroism.
Nearly all the songs on the album are rousing sing-alongs except for Graceful & Charming (Sweet Forget-Me-Not). The love song was sung at McCann's grandparents' wedding and is one of the earliest songs he had learned growing up.
The unusual design on the album cover is explained in the song The Mermaid. In the song, a man follows a mermaid underwater, but laments on what he's missing, until he meets her sister.
The Hard and the Easy also comes with a 50-minute DVD. The band is shown rehearsing songs from the album on a back porch and in the living room, interspersed with introductions by individual band members about the history of the songs. The DVD is a nice addition to the CD, shedding insight into the songs and allowing a more personal view of the band.
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