So, Bloodshot records label mates Robbie Fulks and (most of) the Mekons went on a tour of Scotland together, stopped off at a tiny fishing island called Jura and recorded an album of a) old sea shanties, and b) songs of theirs that sound just like old sea shanties, possibly while staggeringly drunk. Many alt-country fans will have already downloaded Jura before they've finished reading the above description.
For those who haven't, here's more of the appeal: Robbie Fulks is a cranky, hyper-intelligent beanpole who mines centuries of American music to make albums full of songs that can be viciously clever, or hopelessly tender, sometimes both at once. The Mekons are one of the old-school punk-turned-country bands whose proletarian balladry made the genre shift with ease. Together, they work. After all, the sea shanty, like the American drinking song, and like the punk anthem, is music to sing with other people. The album sounds like a house party rather than a concert. One can easily imagine the live show, a tiny bar or kitchen, filled to the brim, everyone in the audience belting out the lyrics back at the band.
In fact, the great flaw of this album is that it isn't a concert, and the listener is not right there with the band; it feels disconcerting to be listening to an album of alternately rollicking and mournful populist sing-alongs while alone in one's living room. You could crank it up, guzzle whiskey and join in on the choruses nonetheless, but your roommates, and/or children, might never let you live it down. (Bloodshot)