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Gordon Bok

Gordon Bok is a native of Camden Maine

. Camden, even now, is one of the boat-building areas of North America where schooners are still built. Bok grew up surrounded by ships, ship-yards and music. His family was musical, and Bok began playing guitar at 9. He spent years working boats of all kinds, as crew and as captain, sailing close to the bays of Camden and very far away, on everything from dories to schooners and yachts. And always, wherever he was, Bok was collecting, learning and playing new songs, often using instruments he built himself. Bok sings traditional songs and ballads in English, Gaelic, Portuguese, and Italian.

His very first album in 1965 was issued by Verve records, and produced by Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul and Mary fame. Bok's songs have been sung and recorded by a wide array of singers, including Tommy Makem and Liam Clancy, and Archie Fisher. Bok's own compositions often fit so very well into the traditions of sea-chantey and folk music that many people think songs like "Seal Djiril's Hymn," "The Hills of Isle Au Haut" are as traditional as the Newfoundland dialect ballad "I's the B'y." Bok even created and performed his own version of the medieval tale of Lady Odivere from the Orkneys, and preserved as a ballad in Norn, a derivational dialect of Old Norse. Bok's fondness for cantefable, better known as a lais, the mixture of narrative, spoken word, and verse in the same piece is one of the markers for early Celtic and Germanic literatures, and used with striking effect in Bok's performances of "Saben the Woodfiter," Seal Djiril's Hymn," and "Peter Kagan and the Wind," popularized by Makem and Clancy.

Bok's second recording, Songs of November, was on the Folk Legacy label, as were several subsequent albums. Today his newer material, including his song books, are sold by his own label Timberhead Music. His double-CD album Singing Through the Hard Times: A Tribute to Utah Phillips was nominated in 2009 for a Grammy for Best Folk Album. Several of Gordon Bok's albums include the talented Ann Mayo Muir and Ed Trickett. In addition to building various musical instruments, including the "Bok Whistle," and the "cellamba," a six-string, fretted cello. His woodcarvings, depicting the sea, life on the sea, and sea-life, mythical and realistic, are featured in galleries in Camden and nearby towns.

Bok's Web site is here. This spring, Bok is touring in Florida, Massachusetts, and Maine. His touring schedule is here; he's well worth seeing in concert.