Hey, Great Big Sea: Play it Again

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May 5, 2014 by Welcome to the Jungle

great big seaPLAY It Again
By Ainslee M.

Great Big Sea
Warner Music Canada (1997)


Great Big Sea’s Play is a phenomenal album that I would very high recommend. It is sure to get you singing and dancing along and will definitely leave you wanting to PLAY it again.

Great Big Sea is Canadian rock/folk band from Newfoundland and Labrador. Their first show was at Memorial University in St.John’s Newfoundland, when they opened for the Irish Descendants in 1993. The band members have changed a fair bit since then however their success never wavered. Alan Doyle and Bob Hallett were always a part of Great Big Sea. Doyle was the lead singer and also played the acoustic guitar, bouzouki (an Irish plucked string instrument) and the electric guitar. Hallett also had a huge effect on the band as he did vocals as well as playing the fiddle, bouzouki, various whistles, accordion, bagpipes, banjo, harmonica, guitar, mandolin, concertina and saxophone. Sean McCann (vocals, acoustic guitar, tin whistle and bodhran), and Darrell Power (vocals, bass, guitar, bones, mandolin, fiddle, accordion and harmonica) were also a part of Great Big Sea at the time Play was released however they have since left the band. Murray Foster and Kris McFarlane also contributed in the recording and preforming of Great Big Sea’s Play.

Play was released in Canada on May 20th, 1993 after being recorded at The Battery and CBS Studios in Newfoundland. Although this album was considered to be folk music, which most people would not consider popular, that was not the case with Play. Great Big Sea’s Play went triple platinum in Canada. It has such a good feel to it and represents a lifestyle that is very popular to East Coasters. This album included their huge hits When I’m Up, Donkey Riding, The Night Pat Murphy Died as well as their own rendition of R.E.M’s End of the World. The instruments incorporated in Play are very typical to folk music however the majority of songs are quite fast and upbeat giving it a bit of a rock feel. Great Big Sea is known across Canada for their outstanding and different musical styles and the songs on Play are no exception.

Everything about this album is amazing. The contrast between happy, upbeat drinking songs to the beautifully mournful ones is astonishing and perfect. No matter which song you are listening to you will always be able to tap your toe along and really get immersed in the music. I believe that the vocal styles of Alan Doyle really help in making this album stand out. His voice is so unique and instantly recognizable. His voice is deep yet he is still able to hit the high notes perfectly, this blend is hard to find in people. Another thing that makes Great Big Sea stand out from other bands is the unique instruments used in their songs on Play. Instruments like the bodhran (an Irish frame drum), the fiddle, tin whistle as well as most heard in their songs are not typically heard now a days. Great Big Sea brings back classic folk instruments and introduces them into modern music which definitely makes them stand out. This album makes me feel so happy and makes me proud to be from the East Coast.

Great Big Sea’s Play is extremely memorable. It leaves you with a lasting impression. I listened to this album all the time growing up and just hearing a song from it sends so many memories flooding towards me. Play is an album that you can go years without listening to and then decide to give it a listen and still know the words to every song. It gives off such a good vibe and shows such pride of being from the East Coast there is no way you can listen and not enjoy what you hear. It is so unique and the music blends together perfectly. Play brings back traditional Newfie music styles and songs which appeal to all ages due to their changes they have made.
Play is an exceptional album that everybody should own. I would give it two thumbs up. It is never a dull moment when Great Big Sea is playing. If you ever need a good pick me up listen to Great Big Sea. This album is superb and is most definitely one of my favorites.

Ainslee M. is a grade 12 student with an immense love for Great Big Sea and their album Play is no exception.

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