Along those lines, I like to think of sea chanteys as "portholes into our past." They connect, as many types of folk songs do, tangible things (ships, storms, "Judies," cruel mates, etc.) with intangible ideas (fear, courage, love, lust, longing for a better life, etc.) It is this quality of linking the tangible with the intangible that, for me, gives traditional folk songs their sense of immediacy as well as their sense of historical time and place. Modern songs written with traditional music sensibilities can do the same, such as some of Andy M. Stewart's and Richard Grainger's songs, for just a couple of examples. They have a way of making a nearly seamless link between the traditionalist and the singer/songwriter, at least to my ears.
GREAT article, Art Thieme!