Tag Archives: the slumber boat

The Press Release

Hundred Years Late
Arranged for Modern Sensibilities
& Recorded Using Modern Methods

Album out DECEMBER 15th on Bandcamp
The Slumber Boat video now on YouTube.

This unique album features twelve modern reinterpretations of songs which were written, published, recorded, or released in 1914.

Musician and songwriter David Nelligan began this ‘music archive revival project’ Hundred Years Late last year as part of his masters research, and has been encouraging modern musicians to delve into the archives and put their own spin on the songs they discover there. The idea is to celebrate the musicians and songwriters of the past, and encourage modern musicians and songwriters to engage with archival resources and participate in a kind of inter-generational cultural cross-pollination. Throughout the year, David has been curating his own favourite songs from the archives and enlisting some of his favourite musicians to help him record them, while writing a blog highlighting some wonderful songs from 1914 and the stories of the people behind them.

The somewhat formal style of the time, the lack of a modern rhythm section, and the scratchiness and general poor sound quality of these old recordings can make songs from this era inaccessible to modern listeners. But when performed and interpreted by modern musicians, the songs seem suddenly vibrant and relevant again. There’s a tenderness, a naïveté, a melodramatic sincerity about the lyrics that seems so fresh and free of cynicism. Musically, there’s a wide variety of styles covered. Some songs are playful and jazzy, others melancholic and avant-garde. Then there’s blues, gospel, rock and pop, but not as we know them. They don’t write them like this anymore.

You are cordially invited to come and listen to this strange and nostalgic album of cover versions.

The album will be available on Bandcamp on Monday December 15th.

To whet your appetite, Hundred Years Late have produced a charming animated video for lullaby The Slumber Boat. It is sung by guest vocalist Lynda Cullen, a Cork-based singer-songwriter whose album Paper Boat was released earlier this year to critical acclaim. The sleeping baby illustrations used in the video are in the public domain, taken from a magazine published in 1914.

The general health and well-being of the public domain is one of the issues that inspired this project. If culture can be locked up in copyright restrictions for 95 years, then remix artists across all genres and media are limited to using vintage material. Rather than complain about what can’t be done, this project aims to demonstrate what can be done with the public domain. All the artwork used for the project is in the public domain, or licensed for reuse under Creative Commons. The songs covered here are of course in the public domain, and the Hundred Years Late recordings of them are also licensed under Creative Commons. Here is the track listing, with links to archive recordings…

1) When You’re A Long Long Way From Home
2) Where My Caravan Has Rested
3) You Broke My Heart To Pass The Time Away
4) The Monotone (Ein Ton)
5) I Want To Be Like Jesus
6) Oft In The Stilly Night
7) If I Were The Ocean And You Were The Shore
8) The Slumber Boat
9) Can’t You Hear Me Callin’, Caroline?
10) Old Folks At Home
11) Crossing The Bar
12) I Cannot Sing The Old Songs

SOME POPULAR SONGS FROM 1914 marks a surprising change of creative direction for David Nelligan. His band, The David Nelligan Thing, released alt-pop-folk-rock album ‘Dark Matters’ in April last year to some acclaim, followed in August by the stylistically divergent electro-synth-pop E.P. ‘Who Is Synthia?’ which notably put Shakespeare’s poetry to music. His academic pursuits necessitated a brief hiatus from the band, during which time this Hundred Years Late album came about. If you would like to know more, visit hundredyearslate.com

The Slumber Boat

Baby’s boat the silver moon
sailing in the sky
sailing o’er the sea of sleep
while the clouds float by.

Sail, baby, sail
out upon that sea.
Only don’t forget to sail
back again to me.

Baby’s fishing for a dream,
fishing near and far.
His line a silver moonbeam is,
his bait a silver star.

Sail, baby, sail
out upon that sea.
Only don’t forget to sail
back again to me,
back again to me.

I became taken with this song and decided to learn it for myself. You don’t hear many lullabies these days. Such simple innocent timeless imagery is conjured, the moon, the sky, the clouds, the sea. Baby’s boat the silver moon… the lyrics were written by children’s poet and lyricist Alice C.D. Riley sometime around 1898. The music was written by Jessie L. Gaynor. I found a version of this song performed in 1914 by famous Mezzo-Soprano Christine Miller which was released on Victor Records. You can listen to it on National Jukebox, I urge you to check it out (unfortunately it’s unembeddible in WordPress).

There are a couple of modern versions of this song as well. There’s one from the mid-sixties by Mrs Miller, a fascinating figure (and no relation to Christine Miller). Mrs (Elva) Miller gained some notoriety self-releasing albums of shrill, off-key renditions of popular songs. According to Wikipedia, “Miller was apparently unaware at first that her musical ability was being ridiculed, but eventually realised it and decided to go along with the joke.” This clip on YouTube features a comedic introduction by someone claiming to be her husband and calling her Mrs Festoon.

I really enjoyed the process of recording this song. Though the piano leads the arrangement, I gave the bass and drums some real power. It seems counterintuitive for a lullaby, but I liked the effect. Cork songwriter Lynda Cullen lends her vocal talents, and Paul Moore (Polo Moro) improvised some lovely fiddle parts, I’m so pleased with the final version that’s going to be on the album. The simple imagery of the lyrics lends itself to a very literal visual interpretation, so I made an animated video to accompany the song. I couldn’t tell if the vintage sleeping baby illustrations I used were girls or boys. So I changed the lyrics to make it a lullaby sung to a girl, where originally it was a boy. Because why not?

Show this to your little ones at sleepytime. Okay, goodnight.