The Whiskey Bards,
The Recruiter ... & Free Rum Ain't Free
(self-produced, 2005)

Yar! I be doing this review in pirate talk, for this album be -- *hack cough cough*

Fine, I'm not going to do the entire review in pirate talk. You try it; it's hard. It's hard even to get in the mindset. But the Whiskey Bards manage to hold the pirate's mindset, and talk the sailor's talk, and do it all in rhyme, for an entire hefty album titled The Recruiter ... & Free Rum Ain't Free. Not an album of tired old filks and standard issue sailing songs, either; more than half the songs here are originals, and the traditional numbers are often unusual enough to sound new even to old filk and folk song fans.

The Whiskey Bards may or may not be real pirates; but they are sure fearless enough. It's not many all-male pirate bands who'll deliver a romantic ballad like "Bell Bottom Trousers," a sort of "Navy Blues" for the pirate crowd, sung from a serving wench's perspective. They can get romantic on their own accord, of course, so long as it's in metaphor, and besides being funny, their tales of love have some of the canniest lines. They're not afraid to spill a few gallons of blood in battle, either, though of course they'd rather stick with rum aboard Robert Louis Stevenson's "The Derelict."

But the Bards are at their best when they're doing a bard's job, being canny and wise. They know how to warn a sailor of "The Recruiter" while using his rum-handed methods, and they have the latest gossip on the dangers of the sea, like "Devilish Mary." Their lessons don't come with lyric sheets, so it's as well that they sing clear and loud, if a touch plain. There's very little in the way of instrumentation to cover up the singing, and nothing about the Bards' performance is elaborate or in the least bit fancy. Nonetheless, they're possessed of a rare appeal. The Bards' voices aren't bad, the songs are all terrible good fun to sing and they are obviously having great good fun singing them -- and The Recruiter is looking for people to join the party. I'd advise taking the offer next time the drinks come round.

by Sarah Meador
12 August 2006

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