“By the Risin’ of the Sea” by James Kahn is available now


SoCal singer-songwriter, television writer-producer and Emmy-nominated novelist James Kahnthe seventh album of, At the Risin’ of the sea, upends our expectations of traditional sea shanties by confronting our modern environmental struggles. The album was a finalist at the International Acoustic Music Awards, and the title track’s music video won several film festival awards, including Best Music Video at the Global Film and Music Festival.

As an ER doctor, Kahn was recruited by Steven Spielberg to be a medical technology advisor/writer on ET: The Extraterrestrial, which led to him writing the novelizations of many major movies, including Return of the Jedi, Poltergeist, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and The Goonies. From there, he went on to write numerous series, including Star Trek: The Next Generation and Xena: Warrior Princess, and wrote and produced Melrose Place and Star Trek: Voyager.

Kahn entertained us for years as a writer and producer of Star Trek, telling us stories of a utopian future, but on By the Risin’ of the Sea he now shows us apocalyptic visions of our real future from sea ​​level rise induced by climate change. , Covid-19, refugee crisis and extinction, all with a charming delivery. These sweet songs make our impending doom comfortable and warm as we all hug each other and let it overwhelm us.

“Climate change is the greatest existential crisis we face,” says Kahn, “bringing droughts, fires, floods, species death, crop failures and, of course, rising seas. Maybe we can still tone down some of the ruin.’The Risin’ of the Seas’ is the album’s central song and lays out the issue in a plaintive, melancholic song that comes from the heart and speaks to it.

The album opener and title track “The Risin’ of the Sea” is a testament to the power of the human voice in its five-part harmonies and the melancholy brought by the poignant accordion accompaniment of Brian Mann. It is followed by the stomping and dancing with death pub ballad “In the Covid Times”, where Kahn’s response to the pandemic, unemployment, police brutality, social isolation, floods, drought and immigration issues is to raise a glass and hope we can all get through the chaos. But there is always that contingent of pandemic deniers, mask deniers, vaccine deniers, climate deniers, racism deniers and science deniers he addresses in “2020: Ship of Fools,” who are all doing their best to sink the ship we all have to live off.

Not all dark and dark, By the Risin’ of the Seas’ lighter offerings still touch on the macabre. “No More a ‘Whalin'” is a beautiful and loving anti-whaling tale in the style of traditional whaling folk songs. “We never stopped listening to the beauty of their air / We were so engrossed in the romance of sail and harpoon.” The parody song “Bucket o’ Bones” puts a 17th century pirate to work on a modern cruise ship, complete with a violin by Gabe Witcher (Punch Brothers, Paul Simon). In the context of the album, one is reminded of the many quarantined cruise liners at the start of the pandemic. “We caught a touch of the plague / but all the medicine we had was cabernet / We had no Wifi bars / we were insured by our cell phones / The days were dark / and cold with strangers / But the day we started coughing / well I knew we’d all end / Just a bucket of bones The tongue-in-cheek ‘Island of Dreams’ talks about treasure while actually referring to the five mile garbage island of debris of plastic permanently floating in the Pacific Ocean.

“O the Ocean Rolls” addresses the refugee crisis. “The Vast Infinity”, played with real bones by Sharon Turmondt, is about accepting the “final come what may”. “On the Other Side” follows suit as the narrator goes nostalgic back in his twilight years with only a guitar, cups, stomps, silverware, hoots and claps as instruments. “Cast on the Water” finds album producer David West on a hammer-powered dulcimer as Kahn sings the story of a lost soul finding its way through the world.

The album approaches “Sundown” bookends By the Risin’ of the Sea with a final five-part a cappella lament inspired by Kahn’s ecobiologist friend who said, “You know, people talk about rising temperatures around the world but it’s happening so gradually we just keep adjusting allowing us to ignore the realities The reality is that different species have different inflection points so one day we will wake up and – no more bees. Kahn ends the song with a hopeful note, “If we’re wise/it’ll be alright.” Becoming wise is the challenge for all of us.

The antidote to all of this may be in his four-part a cappella piece “Landfall,” about finding stability in a world that seems to be spiraling out of control. Building on the recent resurgence of interest, By the Risin’ of the Sea brings sea shanties into the modern era, tackling contemporary themes with classic folk musical strains. It is by turns moving and poignant, funny and angry, while remaining full of hope.

“We all seek the landfall,” says Kahn, “the place where we feel whole and at home, where we can rest.”


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