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

Pirates and sailors sang sea chanteys as work songs — morale boosters devised to provide the necessary rhythm for pulling anchor, hauling line, and hoisting sail. Chanteys were also the foulest, loneliest, and most murderous ditties of the last four centuries — proto-punk rock. Some soundtrack! Rogue's Gallery compiles 43 such songs at the behest of Pirates of the Caribbean's Johnny Depp and director Gore Verbinski, with the help of a wild A-list. Nick Cave, Bryan Ferry, Lou Reed, and Jolie Holland all fly the black flag. Lucinda Williams' gorgeous "Bonnie Portmore" soars. Jarvis Cocker's rollicking dirge "A Drop of Nelson's Blood" builds to a screaming, chaotic peak. Even Seattle's legendary Baby Gramps brings his washtub-scrub throat-song to a couple cranky tracks, and veteran folker Loudon Wainwright III shows us a curious side on "Good Ship Venus": Onnnnnn the good ship Venus/Christ, you should have seen us/The figurehead was a whore in bed/Sucking a dead man's penis. Despite its heterogeneity, Gallery is a concise, compelling listen from beginning to end; a porthole to a romantic, salty past, and a fresh look at some true hall-of-famers.

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