Various Artists | Tales from the Bar: Songs of the Lower Columbia River

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Tales from the Bar: Songs of the Lower Columbia River

by Various Artists

A compilation of 19 songs, by 17 performers, telling the dramatic stories of the Columbia River Bar and the lower Columbia, in modern folk styles.
Genre: Folk: Sea Shanties
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Astoria's Bar
Brownsmead Flats
2:12 $0.99
2. Desdemona Sands
Matthew Moeller
4:25 $0.99
3. Old Miller Sands
Willapa Hills
3:51 $0.99
4. Ilwaco Town
Hobe Kytr & Dave Berge
4:12 $0.99
5. Shanghai Jack
Chris Glanister
1:59 $0.99
6. Clamshell Line
The Whateverly Brothers
3:03 $0.99
7. Klipsan Beach
Watch the Sky
3:12 $0.99
8. The Last Days of the Peter Iredale
Hank Payne
2:53 $0.99
9. J. C. Cousins
Jon Pfaff
4:19 $0.99
10. Seaview Bells
Mary Garvey, Chris Roe & Sophie Morse
2:30 $0.99
11. Hold On
Cate Gable
2:49 $0.99
12. The Bar Pilots
Dan Roberts
3:50 $0.99
13. Progress and Porchlights
The Low Tide Drifters
3:12 $0.99
14. Boston Men
Brownsmead Flats
4:35 $0.99
15. The Pacific Waits
Jan Elliott-Glanister
3:47 $0.99
16. Roll On, Columbia
Hank Cramer
3:52 $0.99
17. Columbia River Lullaby
Kate Power & Steve Einhorn
5:05 $0.99
18. Crossing the Bar
Betsy Wellings and Friends
3:33 $0.99
19. Beach of Heaven
Willapa Hills
2:34 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Over the next few months, we will be writing extensive album notes, including the lyrics and the stories behind the songs.

In the meantime, here are some notes about the song 'The Bar Pilots'.

The Bar Pilots

At harbors around the world, big ships have to take on a local pilot to guide them into port, but to get into the Columbia River takes two different pilots: a Columbia River Pilot and a Columbia Bar Pilot. The River Pilots take a ship through about a hundred miles of river, from ports like Portland and Longview, out to Astoria, near the mouth of the river, where a Bar Pilot comes on board and takes the ship out over the bar.

The Columbia Bar is said to be the second most dangerous river bar in the world, but no one seems to know which is the most dangerous, so some say it is the Columbia Bar.

Unlike a lot of big rivers, the Columbia doesn’t have a delta to slow down the water, so it comes out like a fire hose and collides with storm waves coming in from the Pacific, creating some very dangerous and turbulent waters. The Columbia Bar is a big bar of sand six miles long and three miles wide, with a narrow channel that is kept dredged through the middle. If a ship is pushed out of that channel, there are sand spits and rock jetties waiting to eat it up.

Peacock Spit is mentioned in the song. This is one of the most notorious hazards in the Columbia Bar. It’s named after the USS Peacock, which was sent to survey the bar in 1841 and promptly wrecked on the spit. A spit is a partially submerged bar of sand, which you might think would be a soft thing for a ship to hit, but it can break a ship in half or hold it for the waves to break up.

The conditions on the bar are constantly changing, and the bar pilots have to navigate on gut instinct, and the experience of a lifetime at sea. One pilot said that most of what he knew about being a bar pilot was how to get on and off a ship without being killed.

The pilots either have to go out in a pilot boat, and jump to a ladder rigged over the side of the ship, or else they fly out in a helicopter that either lands on a moving ship or lowers the pilot on a cable to a ship that is moving up and down. Because of the high requirements to become a bar pilot, the bar pilots who are jumping on and off these big ships are no longer young, they are people in their 40s, 50s and 60s who risk their lives every day to keep commerce moving.

The bar pilots are under a lot of pressure to keep the bar open at night and in all kinds of weather. The lower Columbia is one of the largest ports in the country, and the big ships, once they are loaded, are burning money until they can get to their next port. If the bar pilots close the bar for two days, the rail traffic is backed up all the way to the Midwest.

The bar pilots have a great safety record; they have not lost a big ship in several decades, although they take a dozen ships in and out every day.



to write a review

Mary G.

You will love this CD
I probably should not review, since I wrote some of the I will just say that this is a great collection of songs about the Columbia Bar for the most part. The songs are quite singable and beautiful, and contain so much history.
I will just mention where some of mine come from, and Maritime Folknet will elaborate on this in the future.
1. Astoria's Bar..based on what someone wrote about her grandfather, a Finn I believe. This was written up in the Vancouver WA paper.
2. Shanghai Jack..there is a pub right at the foot of the Astoria Megler bridge where you can still see the trap door and find out about the history. Tune by Chris Glanister.
3. Klipsan Beach..tune by Chris Glanister. I had this one tuneless for a while. It is about the very courageous men of the Klipsan Beach lifeboat station. Read up on it.
4. Seaview Bells...again from a newspaper article in Chinook Observer. A girl found some cowbells and started to play them and her grandmother told her to put them down and explained how they had been used to guide ships into the mouth of the Columbia before lighthouses.
Hold on..based on a true and tragic event that happened after Christmas..Coast Guard was able to save one drowning man but did not find the other who perished. A series of miracles helped them save the one, who had been setting crab pots.