Safe Upon the Shore is the tenth album by Canadian folk rockers Great Big Sea, and much of it is very catchy. There is something singularly organic about the music featured on this album. It is easy to imagine oneself sitting in a bar with the band as they spontaneously break into tune. The flip side of this is that the album can seem a tad uneven as well. Some of the songs come across as very traditional, sounding a bit like Celtic throwbacks, while others strike one as more homey and Southern in flavor. This means if you like one kind of music but not the other, you will like about half the songs on the CD.
In any case, Great Big Sea does a fine job of striking the heart strings. “Nothing But A Song” is a lively but sweet testament to family bonds, even as “Long Life (Where Did You Go)” is one to friendship, and “Dear Home Town” is a love letter to one’s roots. There is also a fun cover of “Have A Cuppa Tea.”
Meanwhile, on the softer side, there are arrangements of traditional songs (“Gallows Pole”) and songs based on traditional themes (“Over the Hills” and the title track). While not bad songs, they sound thin next to the other, more upbeat and heartier fare. Perhaps this illuminates the difference between the New Orleans-inspired songs that grace parts of Safe Upon the Shore and the Newfoundland-inspired sound for which Great Big Sea is better known.
Although bumpy as a whole, Safe Upon the Shore is certainly worth a spin, if only so that listeners can pick and choose which of the songs on the album they would like to add to their iPods. It seems guaranteed that they will find at least a couple songs worth keeping.