Making their second visit to the Costa del Folk in Portugal in October are the Fisherman’s Friends, the first traditional folk group to get a record in the Top Ten Album Charts.
Bound together by lifelong friendship and shared experience for more than 25 years, the Fisherman’s Friends have met on the Platt (harbour) in their native Port Isaac to raise money for charity, singing the traditional songs of the sea handed down to them by their forefathers. The authentic sound of the shanty can be heard loud and clear via the mighty, brawny chorale of The Fisherman’s Friends. At around eight in the evening during the summer months, tourists and locals gather to hear them mesh their voices in an incredibly rousing and joyful set of shanties and Cornish folk songs.
There’s no gang leader, no choir master and no holds barred in the singing of The Fisherman’s Friends. And fisherman’s friends they truly are – each and every member of this unique group are or have been fishermen, life-boatmen and coastguards (as well as builders, artisans, hoteliers, and shop keepers) in Port Isaac. They’ve known each other since childhood and learned their powerful brand of Cornish harmony singing at the local Methodist chapel – now the pottery of Fisherman’s Friend Billy Hawkins (baritone), where the group get together with a crate of ale and a good deal of bonhomie to rehearse their repertoire and try out new songs.
At their regular Port Isaac summer sessions, they stand in a line and each leads a song, from one end of the line and back again, giving them a huge variety of sound and song, and drawing from a repertoire of songs and shanties not only from Cornwall but Liverpool, Ireland, Africa, the West Indian, and America.
Since their surprise chart success in 2010, they’ve been the subject of an ITV documentary, released the hit albums One and All (2013) and Proper Job (2015) and played to hundreds of thousands of fans at home and abroad.
But they’ll not just be playing the Main Stage at the Costa del Folk. They’ve already asked if it will be OK if they sing in the bar in the evenings!
“We have a very full sound,” says Jon Cleave (bass). “You’ve got the different grades of baritone in the middle, which all blend, and then there are the tenor harmonies at the top and I do the bass underneath – so it makes a fat sound, a full sound, a solid wall of sound. Like Phil Spector.”