I don’t get to travel to nearly as many festivals as I’d like. Work, and obligations, and the fact that I make money more like a deck hand than a pirate lord keep me closer to home than I want to be. (Though if anyone would like to hire a pirate storyteller for their event, just shoot me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org) So I don’t get to hear as much pirate music as I’d like.
But lately I’ve discovered some new (to me) bands and some new songs.
The Musical Blades started out a decade ago, as a comedy sword act in Kansas City – just about as far from piratical waters as it’s possible to get! Over the years their act grew and evolved, until they are now a full-fledged pirate band. The Blades have just released their tenth full-length album, “Live at the Voodoo.”
This group is tight, talented, and very creative. Renaissance Magazine awarded them Best New CD, Best Live Music Group, and Best Comedy Musical Show for 2016, with additional awards coming from other sources. Even their Facebook Page has won awards!
All I can say about these guys is – Where have you been all my life? (Yeah, I know. I’ve had my head stuck in a history book.)
So, for your enjoyment, here is the first of two of my favorite Blades songs, an original with a deceptively slow intro. Listen carefully, and you’ll catch a line from Pirates of the Caribbean, Curse of the Black Pearl.
Gotta dig the Black Sails images on this. (Black Sails had some great moments and a few idiotic ones, but the cinematography was always outstanding.)
Now, for our next offering, a song with a long history. A VERY long history. “Whiskey in the Jar” probably dates back to about the middle of the 17th century. There is some evidence that it was at least partially based on the life of an Irish highwayman (robber) named Patrick Flemmen who was hanged in 1650.
It’s an Irish rebel song, sung by nearly anyone who didn’t like being occupied by the English. The basic story is about a highwayman who robs an English army captain and gets away with the money. He goes home to his wife/lover, taking the loot. But as he sleeps, she betrays him and he is captured. The song often ends with the singer’s hope that his brother will help him escape, and the two of them will be robbers together in the Irish mountains.
And what does this have to do with pirates? Not a single thing.
BUT the song has been stuck into pirate playlists for decades. Pirates, after all, didn’t like the English, and they considered themselves to be in a state of rebellion. It doesn’t hurt at all that the Englishman robbed is a “captain.” And different version of the song have been sung in Scotland and even the United States – anywhere the English were unwelcome.
But even though the song is very popular, it still has not much to do with pirates. Until the Musical Blades got a hold of it. That is. A little pirate history, a little lyrical magic, and we have a filk song – a song whose lyrics have been altered in order to appeal to a special interest group, in this case, pirate lovers.
Our next band is The Jolly Rogers, another group that flits around the Midwest. They’ve been recording since 1992, with a total of 12 albums to their credit (thought the first 4 are out of print.) Their latest, XXV (Twenty five in Roman numerals, for those of you who ain’t read your classics.) The album covers a lot of ground – 32 songs, ranging from traditional shanties to original works.
This group does not have the professional finish of the Blades, but enthusiasm, imagination and hard work have taken them a long way. My favorite here is “The Flying Dutchman.” It’s hard to do a whole song that’s frightening and creepy, but the Rogers manage it here quite nicely. The driving rhythms move the song forward and the lyrics send a shiver up your spine.
I’ve saved the best for last. It’s been out since 2007, an comes from a real-live revolutionary. David Rovics is an anarchist, a critic of the Republican Party, Democratic Party, George W. Bush, and John Kerry. He also knows his pirates.
Rovics’ song is as close to history as a pirate song has ever gotten, and it’s pretty plain that he wishes that the pirates had taken over the world. Rovics is so enthusiastic about the “pirate” lifestyle that he has a song called “Steal this MP3.” And he gives a lot of his music away for free. And sheet music. And you can watch the video on his site without commercials.
So that’s my latest pirate music lineup. Visit the sites, download the music, and support these artists. It’s the piratical thing to do.