The Crimson Pirates,
Putrid & Disgusting
(self-produced, 2004)

After showing a great deal of improvement between their first and second CDs, the Crimson Pirates run into a spot of stormy weather with their third, Putrid & Disgusting.

The band, probably best known to patrons of the New York Renaissance Faire, has put together a good selection of nautical songs. But this latest CD lacks the spark of individuality that set Your Day in the Barrel apart from their self-titled debut.

The music is hurt with the addition of a fiddle to the musical mix; usually my favorite instrument, the fiddle here wants tuning in a desperate way. And a good number of their arrangements this time seem less concerned with originality, focused instead on proving over and over again that, hey, they can pull off some darn good vocal harmonies. But that's just not enough to sustain an album, unfortunately -- and, admittedly, they seem sometimes to throw in a few high, quavery notes because they can, not because they should.

There are plenty of good songs here, including traditional favorites "Tom of Bedlam," "Run the Riggin' Again," "Rolling Home," "Skye Boat Song," "Sailor's Way," "Black Velvet Band," "Henry Martin," "Fire Maringo" and "Old Dun Cow." Some of the lyrics are altered effectively to reflect the band's Renaissance-era facade, but they raised my ire a bit with their corruption of Stan Rogers' "Barrett's Privateers."

To suit their Elizabethan personae, I suppose, they shifted the song from 1778 to 1578 and substituted Spanish foes for Americans. (Rogers wrote the song about a battle between an ill-prepared Canadian privateer and a Yankee clipper during the American War of 1812.) With those changes made, however, the band got lazy, referencing the Nova Scotian towns of Sherbrooke and Halifax, which didn't exist in 1578. (The English town of Halifax, landbound in West Yorkshire, doesn't make sense in this context.)

I'm being picky, perhaps, but an attention to detail is important when revising a song so beloved. And the arrangement is inappropriately cheery, considering the doomed ship's fate and the state of its narrator by the end.

On the other hand, I greatly enjoyed their version of Tom Lewis's "Marching Inland," as well as several traditionals, and I find the one original song, "Putrid & Disgusting," to be gleefully sickening good fun. The song explores one of the many uses for the ship's cabin boy and is definitely not for the weak of stomach.

The band, which has changed membership slightly for each recording, is now Ann Alford, Jared Hoffert, Don Kilcoyne, Kelly Kilcoyne, Ann Kirby, Kelley McKinnon, Dan O'Driscoll, Robin O'Driscoll, Alen O'Hara, Karen O'Hara, Bevan Ruland, Lionel Ruland and Mark James Schryver.

The album has plenty of good, fun music. But I know the Crimson Pirates can do better.

- Rambles
written by Tom Knapp
published 27 November 2004

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