Chesapeake Musician, Former CBM Editor Releases Bay Songbook

You may remember her as a voice of Chesapeake Bay Magazine, guiding editorial content by day, but writing and performing sea shanties and Chesapeake folk music by night.

Now, Annapolis native Janie Meneely has just released a songbook of her four decades of work. It’s all part of her crusade to put the Chesapeake Bay on the musical map. Sing the Bay Fantastic! is part songbook-part encyclopedia of the people, places and especially the vessels that make the Bay uniquely worth celebrating in verse and prose alike. 

Meneely’s career has evolved from the early decades of this century when she joined up with the late Paul DiBlasi to form the musical duo Calico Jack into her current partnership with the British folk legend Rob van Sante.  

Not since Tom Wisner passed 10 years ago has anyone promoted the Bay with such an abundance of songs and stories as Janie Meneely. This collection not only provides the musical scores of more than 40 of her songs, but also the stories behind them, stories of the watermen and their wives, of the skipjacks and schooners they sailed to work the Bay, of the heroic tales and whimsical legends that they told around the stove in the galley while riding out a gale. 

Janie’s style might best be described with the word, “brackish” – a little bit salty, a little bit fresh, but always with a tidewater tang. Her song lyrics read from the sublime:   

And it’s a cold wind that blows 

Where the oyster dredges go 

It’s a might tough way to make a dollar. 

It’s a hard, hard road, dredging for the white gold, 

Finding your fortune on the water. 

(Chorus from “The Oyster Wife.”) 

To the silly: 

Come sailors and seamen, my stout-hearted braves,  

Start minding your manners when out on the waves, 

For if you’re offensive to females, I’m told, 

You’ll risk getting keel-hauled by Molly the Bold. 

She’ll snap off your spreader, she’ll scuttle your rigs, 

She’s out wreaking havoc on chauvinist pigs… 

(Chorus from “Molly the Bold.”) 

Sing the Bay Fantastic! is available to order on

Jeff Holland

Holland and Meneely wrote and performed together around Chesapeake Country as part of the Chesapeake Bay folk group Crab Alley.