This is a lovely piece of homespun - rough around the edges but full of heart. Ed Klein, the singing dentist of Royal Oak, Md., has produced a CD of original songs dedicated to Chesapeake watermen, past and present. And, to use the waterman’s vernacular, “It ain’t half bad.”
“Chesapeake Cowboy” comprises 11 tunes performed by Klein and a bevy of Eastern Shore musicians (all of whom appeared at one time or another at Klein’s Royal Oak Cafe showcase). Each song captures an aspect of the traditional waterman’s life on the water. While some are predictable and repetitive - “Family Tradition” and “Born the Son of a Waterman” share a lot of lyrics, for example - others show a sophistication that would do Woody Guthrie proud.
The title tune is one of the more original I’ve heard, comparing the waterman and his life on the open Bay to the life of the cowboy. The parallels are apt. And the direct simplicity of “What’s Gonna Happen to the Nellie Byrd” packs a wallop: Don’t sell her to the lawyer from old Baltimore/I’d rather see her on the bottom of the Bay.
The CD can be had for $15, plus $1.25 for taxes, postage and handling. Ed Klein, 1216 S. Talbot St., St. Michaels, MD 21663; 410-745-9200; firstname.lastname@example.org.