Rogue's Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs & Chanteys

Record review

Phases & Stages

Rogue's Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs & Chanteys


The beautifully executed 2-CD Rogue's Gallery will only come as a surprise or novelty to nonfolkies. Within the trad folk circuit, where "What Do We Do With a Drunken Sailor" and "Cape Cod Girls" are as de rigueur as "Nottamun Town" and "Sam Hall," these Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs & Chanteys are known, revered, and played. For those clutching the black flag thanks to Pirates of the Caribbean I & II or simply looking for something other than another shuffling singer-songwriter, Rogue's Gallery digs up a treasure chest of 43 seaworthy songs. Yes, the marquee names glitter like stolen emeralds on the Spanish Main – Sting ("Blood Red Roses"), Lucinda Williams ("Bonnie Portmore"), Richard Thompson ("Mingulay Boat Song"), Bono ("A Dying Sailor to His Shipmates") – but some are more convincing performances than others. John Cale's Welsh growl might have been more appropriate than Lou Reed's monotonous "Leave Her Johnny," for example. That Johnny Depp and Caribbean director Gore Verbinski executive produced makes sense, but appointing Hal Willner (Stay Awake) to helm the project and choosing Howard Pyle's Marooned Pirate as cover art was particularly inspired. Thus, the performances, in particular Nick Cave ("Fire Down Below," "Pinery Boy") and Bryan Ferry ("Lowlands Low," "The Cruel Ship's Captain"), are as golden as a pocket full of doubloons. Heave away, boys: We're twice as rich for having Rogue's Gallery.


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