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

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

3.5 7

While the marketing insanity for Pirates of the Caribbean II continues to echo in the popular mindset, this whopping yet seemingly near-underground document -- born from the minds of the film's director, Gore Verbinski, his pal Johnny Depp, and Anti-Epitaph label boss (and Verbinski buddy) Brett Gurewitz<See more details below


While the marketing insanity for Pirates of the Caribbean II continues to echo in the popular mindset, this whopping yet seemingly near-underground document -- born from the minds of the film's director, Gore Verbinski, his pal Johnny Depp, and Anti-Epitaph label boss (and Verbinski buddy) Brett Gurewitz -- may end up as a lasting contribution to the populace at large without them even knowing it. Surely it lends its own weighty blend of blood, sweat, and tears to the folkloric literature of sea shanties and pirate songs, though cranks like Alan Lomax and John Jacob Niles are certainly turning over in their graves if they have any extraterrestrial knowledge of its existence. Rogue's Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs, and Chanteys, produced by Hal Willner, has gathered up the usual outrageous, inspired, ambitious, sometimes ridiculously grouped musicians to record folksongs of the sea, from the call-and-response grunting and occasionally obscene work songs sung by men from the old seas who worked the riggings in rhythm, to pirates who needed (much as modern-day rappers) to boast of their exploits. Willner gathered together some 75 songs and went to Seattle to hang with Bill Frisell to discuss the project. Frisell gathered the Akron Family, Wayne Horvitz, and Eyvind Kang to be a kind of house band there, and netted a slew of songs from the likes of Robin Holcomb (whose reading of "Dead Horse" is one of the most beautiful and haunting things here); the notorious Baby Gramps (whose version of "Cape Cod Girls" starts everything off with a harrumph), and a slew of others. He later went to Los Angeles, New York, London, Dublin, and god knows where else, finding roots musicians to be an ad hoc house band. In London, Warren Ellis of Dirty Three and Bad Seeds fame and Kate St. John formed a unit with some other folks, and in L.A. it was Jack Shit and friends. But this is the back of the story, actually. The singers include everybody from pop blowhards like Sting and Bono, who do respectable jobs (well, not Bono: he blows it big-time on "A Dying Sailor to His Shipmates" because he can't help himself), to wildmen like David Thomas (of Pere Ubu) and Nick Cave; from modern-day darlings like Lucinda Williams and Rufus Wainwright (who sings with his mom, Kate McGarrigle while his cranky old dad Loudon Wainwright III makes an appearance for two cuts); to strange adventurers like Mark Anthony Thompson, Jarvis Cocker, and Bob Neuwirth; from bona fide rock eccentrics like Antony, Jolie Holland, Bryan Ferry, Van Dyke Parks, Stan Ridgway, and Gavin Friday (in Ireland anyway) to rock legends (Ferry fits here, too) like Lou Reed); to indie rock songwriting iconoclasts Joseph Arthur and Ed Harcourt; bona fide recluses like Mary Margaret O'Hara; true traditionalists like John C. Reilly, Martin Carthy and family (Eliza Carthy on her own, too), and Richard and Teddy Thompson. Oh yeah, and one true counterculture icon: Ralph Steadman! There's a whale load of 43 cuts spread out over two discs in a handsome package. It's bound to lose money unless some uptight Amerikanskis get adventurous real quick and buy it to put on their iPods to play on their sailboats and yachts, or if NPR does a feature on it for the yups (that would make both Ishmael and Captain Ahab proud). There are many standouts here, but those that really shake up the decks are Eliza Carthy's "Rolling Sea," Bryan Ferry's two contributions -- the entirely creepy "The Cruel Ship's Captain," and his duet with Antony "Lowlands Low" -- Nick Cave's "Pinery Boy" and his hilariously evil "Fire Down Below," Gavin Friday's "Baltimore Whores," Richard Thompson's reverential and lonesome "Mingualy Boat Song," Martin Carthy and family's "Hog-Eye Man," O'Hara's stirring "The Cry of Man," Cocker's wondrously cannibalistic "A Drop of Nelson's Blood," and Mark Anthony Thompson's hunted "Haul Away Joe." This doesn't mean there are other things here that will appeal to the masses, or even to the few. Let's face it, Baby Gramps, as great as he is, is only gonna make a few hearts (those that are diseased, most likely, or warped, most surely) flutter. Williams is good, but Parks is better, and Joseph Arthur can be downright scary when he wants to be: remember Tom Waits' contribution to another Willner project, Stay Awake: Interpretations of Vintage Disney Films? There you have it. There is something here for most, and something to piss off everyone else. The real deal is this: by bringing up these old relics -- some of which took considerable research to find -- Willner has done a service to folk culture by presenting it in such an oddball, loose, and fun way to the masses. Perhaps that rarefied world of folk culture fascists (who will remain unnamed here) may take umbrage, but consider those who will actually get turned on by this music and research the old songs themselves. Certainly that may be a choice few; for the rest, there is untold knowledge to be gained for random conversation, filling in the "personal weird stuff" file in their brains, and perhaps, if urbane enough, may spark a discussion for a moment or so until the next really "big" thing distracts them. Any way you hoist it, Rogue's Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs, and Chanteys is a treasure trove of the beautiful, the weird, the arcane, and the dangerous right out there on the record store shelves for anyone with a few dollars to spare to be awed or amused by.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times - Ben Ratliff
Chanteys are durable songs, and this turns out to be a strong album with heart as well as ideas: the conscious weirdness doesn’t render it inconsequential.

Product Details

Release Date:


Disc 1

  1. Cape Cod Girls  -  Baby Gramps
  2. Mingualy Boat Song  - Richard Thompson
  3. My Son John  - John C. Reilly
  4. Fire Down Below
  5. Turkish Revelry
  6. Bully in the Alley  -  Three Pruned Men
  7. The Cruel Ship's Captain
  8. Dead Horse
  9. Spanish Ladies
  10. Coast of High Barbary
  11. Haul Away Joe  -  Chocolate Genius
  12. Dan Dan  - David Thomas
  13. Blood Red Roses  -  Sting
  14. Sally Brown  - Teddy Thompson
  15. Lowlands Away
  16. Baltimore Whores
  17. Rolling Sea
  18. The Mermaid  -  UK Group
  19. Haul on the Bowline
  20. A Dying Sailor to His Shipmates  -  Bono
  21. Bonnie Portmore
  22. Shenandoah  - Jack Shit
  23. The Cry of Man

Disc 2

  1. Boney Was a Warrior  - Jack Shit
  2. Good Ship Venus
  3. Long Time Ago
  4. Pinery Boy
  5. Lowlands Low  -  Antony
  6. One Spring Morning  -  Akron/Family
  7. Hog-Eye Man  -  Martin Carthy & Family
  8. The Fiddler  -  Ricky Jay
  9. Caroline and Her Young Sailor Bold
  10. Fathom the Bowl  - John C. Reilly
  11. What Do We Do with a Drunken Sailor  - David Thomas
  12. Farewell Nancy
  13. Hanging Johnny
  14. Old Man of the Sea  -  Baby Gramps
  15. Greenland Whale Fisheries
  16. Shallow Brown  -  Sting
  17. The Grey Funnel Line
  18. A Drop of Nelson's Blood
  19. Leave Her Johnny
  20. Little Boy Billee

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Martin Carthy   Group Member
Robin Holcomb   Piano,Vocals
Loudon Wainwright   Guitar,Vocals,Vocal Harmony
Nick Cave   Vocals
Bryan Ferry   Piano,Vocals
Robyn Hitchcock   Guitar,Vocals,Background Vocals
Van Dyke Parks   Piano,Vocals
Lou Reed   Guitar,Vocals
Sting   Vocals
Richard Thompson   Guitar,Vocals
Lucinda Williams   Guitar,Vocals
Rob Wasserman   Bass
Gavin Friday   Vocals,Background Vocals
Bob Neuwirth   Vocals
David Thomas   Vocals
Martyn Barker   Percussion,Vocals,Background Vocals
Art Baron   Trombone
Martin Brumbach   Background Vocals
Robbie Casserly   Percussion,Drums
Jarvis Cocker   Guitar,Vocals,Vocoder
David Coulter   Fiddle
Debra Dobkin   Percussion,Background Vocals
Anto Drennan   Guitar
Terry Edwards   Flugelhorn
Warren Ellis   Strings,Violin,Vocals
Davey Faragher   Bass,Background Vocals
Bill Frisell   Guitar
Wayne Horvitz   Keyboards
Neil Larsen   Accordion
Val McCallum   Guitar,Background Vocals
Tony Molloy   Bass
Jenni Muldaur   Vocals,Background Vocals
Andy Newmark   Drums,Vocals,Background Vocals
Ed Pastorini   Harmonium,Keyboards,Background Vocals
Greg Prestopino   Background Vocals
Kate St. John   Accordion,Horn,Oboe,Vocals
Pete Thomas   Drums,Background Vocals
Hal Willner   Background Vocals
Dominic Richards   Bass,Background Vocals
Joe Berardi   Percussion,Drums
Adam Dorn   Background Vocals
Rory McFarlane   Bass,Vocals,Background Vocals
Jane Scarpantoni   Cello
Eliza Carthy   Violin,Vocals,Group Member
Mary Margaret O'Hara   Vocals
Maurice Seezer   Piano,Accordion
Kate McGarrigle   Guitar,Vocals
Rufus Wainwright   Vocals
Norma Waterson   Group Member
Joseph Arthur   Vocals
Ralph Steadman   Vocals,Background Vocals
Pietra Wexstun   Piano
Doug Pettibone   Guitar,Background Vocals
Vera Beren   Background Vocals
Eyvind Kang   Flute,Violin
Mocean Worker   Percussion
Andrea Corr   Vocals
Peter Stanley   Banjo
Teddy Thompson   Guitar,Vocals
Chocolate Genius   Vocals
Zoë Conway   Strings,Background Vocals
Richard Hawley   Guitar
Jenny Scheinman   Violin
Ed Harcourt   Piano,Vocals,Background Vocals
Leo Abrahams   Guitar,Vocals,Background Vocals
Richard Greene & Beryl Marriott   Violin
Baby Gramps   Guitar,Vocals
Nicholas Cords   Viola
Rainy Orteca   Guitar,Background Vocals
Keith Moline   Guitar
Ross Orton   Drums
Tim van Eyken   Accordion,Vocals,Background Vocals
Mira Billotte   Vocals
Steve Mackey   Bass
Lee Ann Brown   Background Vocals
Phiiliip Morgan   Banjo,Irish Whistle
John C. Reilly   Vocals
Ricky Jay   Vocals
Arthur Baron   Trombone,Background Vocals,Didjeridu,tin whistle
Johnny Gandelsman   Violin
Eric Jaconbsen   Cello
Seth Olinsky   Guitar,Background Vocals
Miles Seaton   Bass,Guitar,Vocals,Background Vocals
Douglas Shaw   Vocals
Jack Shit   Guitar,Background Vocals
Michael Thompson   Accordion
Tony Torn   Background Vocals
Ryan Vanderhoof   Guitar,Drums,Vocals,Background Vocals
Dave-Id Busaras   Vocals
Jim White   Drums,Background Vocals

Technical Credits

Van Dyke Parks   Arranger
Tommy Roe   Engineer
Gavin Friday   Music Direction
Cyril Tawney   Composer
Martin Brumbach   Engineer
Jarvis Cocker   Producer
Warren Ellis   Music Direction
Bill Frisell   Music Direction
John Kilgore   Engineer
David Rideau   Engineer
Kate St. John   Music Direction
Gore Verbinski   Executive Producer
Hal Willner   Producer
Johnny Depp   Executive Producer
Eric Liljestrand   Engineer
Graham Sutton   Producer,Engineer
Howard Pyle   Cover Art
Dave Slevin   Engineer
Ryan Hadlock   Engineer
Traditional   Composer
Jenny Scheinman   String Arrangements
Phiiliip Morgan   Annotation
Vanessa Parr   Engineer
Jack Shit   Music Direction

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