The Daily Ripple-News Music Ideas

Switch to desktop


Music Review - 'By the Risin’ of the Sea' by James Kahn (dm)

James Kahn  - By the Risin’ of the Sea  (Click to watch the video)

18 May 2022



The necessity to confront the urgency of the ecological crisis facing humanity should pervade pop culture and the arts with an unavoidable consistency. James Kahn – a modern day renaissance man who has written novels, episodes of major television program, and songs, in addition to his former day job as an ER doctor – has conceived and composed an album that meets the occasion. By the Risin’ of the Sea is a collection of sea shanties about, appropriately enough, global warming. Kahn, reacting to the consensus of climate science, has said that climate change is “the biggest existential threat facing us,” and has aspired to create modern sea shanties that combine “poignancy, black humor, and hope” to speak from and to the heart.

By the Risin’ of the Sea succeeds – simultaneously resurrecting a traditional genre and achieving a timely declaration of outrage in the face of widespread danger and injustice. The sea shanty originated with sailors passing the time with tunes sung to the natural rhythm of the boat rocking on the water. Kahn and his small choir of stationary sailors take their listeners through a tour of the world’s folly – rising sea levels, oil spills, habitat destruction, Covid-19, and the endangerment of many animal and plant species. As one would expect, there is minimal instrumental accompaniment – at times light accordion and/or banjo.

The record maintains a sonic and spiritual authenticity, transporting the audience back in time and onboard a historic ship. The effect is, at once, spooky, sad, and enchanting. It reminds us that as much as our problems remain the same – greed, corruption, and the endless damages wrought by the human ego – they have taken on a newfound menace, threatening not only the sailors navigating a rising sea, but all people, plants, and animals who live on a planet of interdependence.

“O the Ocean Rolls” describes the inevitable outpouring of climate refugees, while “Sundown” depicts the slow suicide of political leadership, along with many voters, ignoring the signs of doom from annual climate reports and the evidence of ecological danger that manifests in melting ice caps. There is still time for delightful and wild humor, most especially “Buck O’ Bones,” which imagines a 17th Century pirate working on a luxury cruise liner in present day.

The third song, “Landfall,” offers something of a mission statement. Kahn and his musical brethren sing about the search for a home on land. Beyond the literal imagining of sailors searching for a shore, it takes on profound application to a world adrift. As the uncounted masses hope and fight for a peaceful and sustainable world, songs like “Landfall,” and records like By the Risin’ Sea, will keep us company and help us get there.


 David Masciotra



David Masciotra ( is the author of four books, including Barack Obama: Invisible Man (Eyewear Publishing, 2017) and Mellencamp: American Troubadour (University Press of Kentucky, 2015).

To read all of David's reviews, click here 




Pin It

News aggregator updating headlines throughout the day to top news & Links to international news, social commentary and columnists creating a better world. External links are provided for reference purposes. The Daily Ripple is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites. tlr workshop 2015

Top Desktop version