The Crimson Pirates,
Your Day in the Barrel
(self-produced, 2003)

The Crimson Pirates have set their own course on Your Day in the Barrel, a recording that sets them apart from the Pyrates Royale.

The Pyrates, from Maryland, were acknowledged as an inspiration to their Crimson counterparts from New York on the first, self-titled album. But Your Day in the Barrel, while still following the same basic formula -- vigorous vocal performances by a large group in a nautical vein -- helps to further distinguish the Crimson sound.

A rantin' version of "Johnny Jump Up," one of my personal favorites, gets Barrel off to a good start. The familiar "Leaving of Liverpool" flows quickly into a jolly "Golden Vanity," in which a valiant cabin boy meets his fate. The Crimsons show their softer side with the lovely "Red is the Rose," the wistful "Captain Jack & the Mermaid" and the homesick "Mist-Covered Mountains." There's a touch of old-time revivalism on the infectious "A Sailor's Prayer." And there are some particularly clever bits, too, like a snippet of "Roll Out the Barrel" at the climax of "Can't You Dance the Polka."

Barrel demonstrates the band's excellent vocal harmonies throughout the recording, as well as plenty of strong, enthusiastic solo singin'. Those little humorous asides that often grow tiresome on these sorts of albums after just a few spins actually keep me smiling each time I play it. The one exception, I'm sorry to say, is the one original track here, "The Barrel." Based on a very old joke, the bawdy but light-hearted ditty earns a chuckle the first time or two but doesn't have much staying power. (On the other hand, I'll wager it's a hands-down favorite at their Crimson performances.)

The band is Ann Alford, Robin Flanagan, Jared Hoffert, Don Kilcoyne, Kelly Kilcoyne, Karen Komornik, Kelley McKinnon, Dan O'Driscoll, Alen O'Hara, Lionel Ruland and Mark James Schryver. Besides vocals -- and damn, some of these harmonies are just excellent -- they employ concertina, recorder, bodhran, gourd, kazoo, conga, bones, claves and 6- and 12-string guitars. All in all, it's a full sound, and the vocals are always in the forefront.

Once again, pirate fans will love this. Given the improvement between the first and second albums, I can't wait to hear the third.

- Rambles
written by Tom Knapp
published 31 July 2004

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