Review: Come Aboard

Rating: ★★★½☆
The Alaskan Pirate
www.alaskanpirate.com

Genre: Crusty pup shanty styled orignial compositions.
Rating: PG-13
Target Audience: Late teens to early retirement

With their album “Come Aboard,” The Alaskan Pirate and His Salty Seamen bring the listener a variety of traditional and original compositions, although most of us would be hard pressed to say which is which. Indeed, every track on this album, be it ancient or freshly written, sounds like it’s been sung by seagoing lads for generations. And what’s more, not one single track sounds even remotely “folkish.” These aren’t sea shanties as sung by an armchair sailor or children’s sing-a-long – not remotely. Rather, this is music as sung by the saltiest amongst us – those who’ve been to sea, had their fingers frozen to the oars and watched their mates get hauled below by tentacled creatures of the deep. The compositions are simple yet bold, the vocals crusty yet listenable. If Quint from the movie Jaws had a band, it would sound a lot like The Alaskan Pirate and His Salty Seamen.

Come Aboard: The album begins with the titular track Come Aboard, which introduces The Alaskan Pirate’s uniquely earthy style. Simple guitars and straightforward lyrics are accompanied by background sounds of seagulls and surf in this slow yet inviting track.

All for Me Grog: Once again the instrumentals begin simply, but are quickly joined by rousing lyrics and backups (I think I picked up on a squeezebox.) A very enthusiastic rendition of this pub favorite, listening to it will make you wonder why you’re not drinking (unless, of course, you are drinking, in which case you’ll likely spill your beer as you wave your mug around your head to the music.)

Row me Hearties: This is a song that would be most appreciated by hardened men of the sea – music for deep sea polar fishermen and their ilk. An incredibly manly tune, just listening to it will put hair on your chest. As such, wenches should exercise caution with this track.

Bowhead Whale: Songs about whale slaughter are always delightfully innapropriate, and this one is no exception. That said, it’s also surprisingly reverent of the beasts that were so cruely hunted centuries. This track is a loving yet fearful tribute to the strength, ferocity, and (eventually) the retail value of a whale.

Captain Kidd: A fast-paced rendition of a classical pirate song. Very well done.

Bellbottom Trousers: Another traditional tune, and easily the most lighthearted track on the album. Bellbottom Trousers is an energetic song about sailors’ use and abuse of local lasses. Not quite dirty, but certainly naughty.

Shark’s Eye: A haunting song, to be sure. Written and sung with the dread and conviction of one who’s actually faced a shark eye to eye, and lived to tell. One of the slower songs of the album, but also one of the strongest.

Sperm Whale and the Squid: One of the albums catchiest songs, and just a tad goofy at times. I suspect it’s a friendly jab at sailors and their overindulgence in male company, but I’m not certain. Maybe it’s just about sperm whales and squids. Maybe.

As an album, Come Aboard walks a fine line. The music is rough, yet remains easy on the ears. And while each song lends the impression that the band is made up of hardened sailors, rather than musicians, the outcome is still surprisingly harmoneous. The sea can be a brutal and unforgiving environment, and The Alaskan Pirate conveys due respect with every weather-beaten lyric, but not for a moment is this album desolote or grim. A sense of fun is conveyed at all times, and even as they sing of men lost at sea and blood spilled upon the decks, The Alaskan Pirate and His Salty Seamen will keep your toes tapping and your attention engaged.