Voices Across The Water (1997)
58:11 total playing time
Deep Blue Horizon [lee murdock]
Hangin’ Johnny [traditional]
The Longing That I Feel [lee murdock]
The Stomach Robber [traditional]
Below Niagara Falls [traditional]
Voices Across the Water [lee murdock]
We Have to Go Out [joe lincoln/lee murdock]
Rio Grande [traditional]
The Mules That Walked the Fo’c’s’le Deck [traditional]
Queen of the Beach [lee murdock]
Red Iron Ore/Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald [traditional/gordon lightfoot]
Let the Lower Lights Be Burning [philip p bliss]
One of Lee’s most popular recordings, in 1997 Lee “finally” included his arrangement of the popular Gordon Lightfoot song, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Always looking for a chance to give his songs accurate historical perspective, Lee joined this contemporary folksong with a traditional song from an earlier era in the Great Lakes iron ore trade, The Red Iron Ore.
Total Playing Time: 58:11
Cover Art: Michael Blaser
Defying popular wisdom, this combination of Red Iron Ore/Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald is over nine minutes long, yet the song is regularly played on public radio folk music shows, especially around the time when the winds of November begin to blow each year. From the CD liner notes, Lee writes:
These two songs I have been singing together for seventeen years. They go so well together because both of these vessels hauled primarily iron ore. Both of these ships were considered very seaworthy and both were the “pride of the line.” The E. C. Roberts was a large schooner, the Ed Fitz a large steam-powered straight-decker. In these songs, both were bound for Cleveland, and one was sold for salvage and scrap after a long career on freshwater, the other not so lucky, resting on the floor of Lake Superior. The Red Iron Ore has been attributed to “Billy” Clarke and written in the late nineteenth century, and Gordon Lightfoot’s Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald was a major pop-song hit from the middle 1970’s. As a matter of fact, there are still many lake sailors who have very mixed feelings about the amazing popularity of this shipwreck song.
The title cut to this CD, Voices Across the Water, tells the story of another twentieth century iron ore freighter, the Daniel J Morrell, which was lost in Lake Huron in November, 1966. This freighter broke in half while crossing the confused waters of Saginaw Bay during a storm. Several seamen were able to make it to life rafts, but the wreck happened so fast that there was no time to radio for help, and it was 36 hours before the first life raft was spotted. Amazingly, there was a sole survivor, Dennis Hale, who lived to tell the story after braving the 34 degree temperatures, wind and snow.
The Deep Blue Horizon, is a preservationist’s anthem written in the persona of the Marblehead Light in Ohio. Lee’s liner notes explain:
Dick Moehl, president of the Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association, said to me two years ago that lighthouses are to North America what castles are to Europe. The Marblehead Light was built at the entrance to Sandusky Bay back in 1821, eight years after Commodore Perry’s victory in the Battle of Lake Erie. Her light has continued to shine up to the present making her the oldest light on the Great Lakes. This year the U.S. Coast Guard has put this light, along with sixteen others, up for sale because of the expense for the upkeep of the grounds and towers. They intend to maintain these lights shining out over the lakes, but want to turn them over to local authorities in a cost-cutting measure. With the advent of Loran and Maptech, (computerized navigation charts with amazing resolution carried on board many commercial vessels, which can give the exact location of that vessel at anytime), one wonders if it is only a matter of time until these lighthouses will go dark forever in a cost cutting measure. I’m not sure I would want to be out some dark night on the lake when my Maptech goes blank with no “old fashioned” navigational aids to steer by.
Also included on this CD, four traditional shanties, salt-water work songs adapted by Great Lakes seamen during the 19th century days of sail. Lee found these songs in the Ivan Walton Collection of the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan. 88 songs from the Walton Collection were recently compiled into a book, Windjammers: Songs of the Great Lakes Sailors also available to order from this site.
“Voices Across the Water delivers a rich cargo of humor, pathos, imagery and adventure to anyone who has ever dreamed of the shipboard life. Murdock’s supple baritone can embody many voices and emotions: the longing of a lonely female lighthouse keeper, the shock of a shipwreck victim awaiting rescue, the casual courage of a U.S. Coast Guard. He even slaps a new coat of varnish on faithful old barges like Shenandoah (here called by its variant title Shenandore) and Gordon Lightfoot’s Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. He can also explore the rougher seas of a sailor’s everyday lot, like no-star food aboard (The Stomach Robber) and treacherous trollops ashore (Below Niagara Falls). A rousing backing chorus and capstan percussion on shanties like Rio Grande add an extra yo-heave-ho to the effort.
— Isthmus, The Weekly Newspaper of Madison, WI Aug 1-7, 1996