Songwriter Janie Meneely, was born and raised on the Chesapeake Bay. She brings her nautical perspective to the world of folk music and storytelling. A founding member of the Chesapeake Bay folk group Crab Alley, her original songs capture the spirit of life on and around the water. From "Islands in the Sun," about weekend cruising to Tilghman, Tangier, Smith, Hooper and Deal islands, to her more recent "Claud W. Somers," about a tragic shipwreck in 1977, Meneely's ditties focus on experiences familiar to Bay sailors. "Katie Allen," based on a campfire tale she heard on the banks of the Chester River, brings a local ghost story to life. Her livelier tunes like "The Devil and St. Pete," inspired by the life of Joshua Thomas (the Parson of the Islands), or "The Saga of Nelly the Sea Nettle" wreak tongue-in-cheek havoc with history and biology, respectively.
Her "talking stories" reveal the waterman's rapidly disappearing way of life, and her children's book, Santa and the Skipjack, remains a holiday favorite.
Meneely performs in classrooms and on stage throughout the mid-Atlantic and works as the editor-at-large for Chesapeake Bay Magazine. She lives in Takoma Park and sails her Tartan sloop, Petrel, out of Herring Bay.
Since her Crab Alley days she has produced three albums of Bay-inspired tunes. The first, a solo CD called Give Me a River, released in 2001, comprises a dozen original songs that range from the haunting “Red Sky,” to the ever-popular “Twiddles.”
Her second Chesapeake-centric CD, The Oyster Wife, includes instrumentation and back-up vocals from her Calico Jack cohorts, principally Paul DiBlasi (guitar and vocals), but also including tracks from Geoff Kaufman (concertina), Chelle Fulk (fiddle) and the Seattle-based duo of William Pint and Felicia Dale. From a ballad about a waterman’s untimely end in a winter storm — “Old Bill” — to the upbeat humor of “Toadfish” (Meneely’s paeon to tournament fishing), the songs on the album sparkle with Chesapeake Bay wit and wonder.
A more far-reaching collection of general maritime material is included on a third album, You Don’t Know Jack, released in 2008. From the song, “Brigantine” about the approach of a spectral ship on the high seas to the naughty “Nasty Nell,” a beehived, potbellied mermaid from Dundalk, the songs showcase Meneely’s deft songwriting skills, supported as ever, by Paul DiBlasi and the duo Wiliam Pint and Felicia Dale.
Look for the release of a fourth album, as yet untitled, sometime in 2010.