The new Pyrates Royale CD shows style and polish beyond the standard.
The Pyrates Royale have been singing and carousing together since 1987, darkening decks from Norfolk to Key West with their lively and sometimes debauched renderings of traditional sailors’ work songs. Rigged out in pirate garb, with cutlasses at their sides and plumes in their hats, this merry band of songsters has always been entertaining enough to look at. Their singing was simply extra fun.
Belay all that for now. Their new CD, Tales of the Brigantine, marks a solid stride toward pure musicality. This is no random collection of chanteys coasting on bawdy asides and titillating lyrics-though bawdy it is and plenty suggestive. Instead, you’ll hear a serious blend of old and new tunes, laced with careful instrumental accompaniment and venturesome harmonies from a strong mix of voices. The result is a compendium that I wanted to listen to over and over.
The CD begins with “Poor Olde Horse,” an old standard about the day a sailor has worked off his advance (“killed the horse”), and closes with the utterly hilarious “Simple Gits” (yes, Gits), a send up of the Shaker melody “Simple Gifts.” In between are classics like “High Barbary,” “Essequibo River” and “Liverpool Packet.” But the real sparkle of the album lies in the stunning vocal arrangement of “Come Down You Roses/Blood Red Roses,” masterminded by Darcy Nair (aka Navigator Kat Fairbanks), the eery maneuvering of the title track “The Brigantine,” produced by Craig Williams (aka First Mate Long John Skivee), and the lilting rendition of “Westering Home.”
Of course, pirates will be pirates, and the “Tales of the Brigantine” is full of piss and vinegar, too. Nothing is sacred. “Sally Racket” is as full of sexual innuendo as a locker-room joke. “The Ratcliffe Highway” renders the acquisition and subsequent discomfort of venereal disease, thinly disguised in maritime metaphor. But as deep as these songs take us into the recesses of the puerile mind, others soar to lofty heights and leave us wondering just what these silly pirates will come up with next.
Tales of the Brigantine can be had for $15 from their website www.pyrates.com.