Review: Cutlass, Cannon, and Curves

Rating: ★★★★☆
The Jolly Rogers

Genre: Pirate-themed faire music
Rating: PG-13
Target Audience: Grown ups, mostly

By and large, the vast majority of festival pirate music centers around traditional songs. This gives rise to two common problems:

1) Much of it starts to sound the same

and 2) Being as few traditional songs were actually about pirates, there’s often little to differentiate “pirate” music from other festival-driven sea shanties, Irish fighting songs, or bawdy ballads.

In Cannon, Cutlass, and Curves, pirate festival veterans The Jolly Rogers handily trounce these issues with an album that’s almost entirely original compositions. Their songs are fun, irreverent, and yes indeed – piratey. Final tally, in fact, shows no less than an impressive seven songs truly, entirely about pirates. Five more are dedicated to the Jolly Rogers less-than-innocent appreciation of the fairer sex, two more about drinking, and four additional tunes not of pirate, wench, or booze persuasion (although two remain distinctly nautical.)

The album begins with Black Jack Slim’s Cutthroat Inn, a catchy, energized song inviting several notable pirates from history to come have a drink. It’s shamelessly piratey, and a fine start to this album with its strong presence and prominent use of vocals and guitar. Next up is the traditional Haul Away to Botony Bay, a song of Australian servitude as sung by criminals (not exactly piratey, but close enough, I’ll wager.)

Curvy Girls is one of the Jolly Rogers’ signature lady-centric songs – in this case a tribute to “real” women, complete with all the curves and shapes the Jolly Rogers so clearly appreciate. The Fight, however, is a stark return to true pirate music – full of piss and vinegar, this is a song of buccaneering braggadocio, and not one to be missed. Seven Days to Paradise is again a song of feminine-appreciation, in this case the kind you pay for (read that as dockside Barbadian prostitutes.)

Mutiny, while it doesn’t specifically state such, appears a slow and soulful song recounting the tale of the mutiny on the HMS Bounty. The reduced pace of the song doesn’t perfectly mesh with the occasional exclamations of “mutiny!”, but this song otherwise carries a somber, foreboding tone that’s a joy to hear. Cap’n’s Keg, on the other hand, is the sailor’s version of a drunken barn dance with it’s twangy flavor and jiggy pace. The lyrics are light and fun, making for a decent if not exactly benchmark song. Wicked, conversely, strikes all the right chords – slow and sad, it’s a song of Henry Every’s exploits recounting his rise to captaincy through his legendary capture of the wealthy Moghul ship, Ganj-I-Sawai.

Goin’ Back to the Sea is an amusing song regarding how hard it is to keep gainful employment ashore, especially for a lad with an affinity for the lady customers. It’s full of innuendo, and a fine example of the Jolly Rogers’ love of not-quite-dirty (or conversely, not-exactly-clean) sea songs.

The Song of a Ship might be considered the most respectable song of the lot, being as it’s the only one here that doesn’t involve women, booze, or violence. Too bad, because it’s actually a very good song – but without the women, booze, or violence, what’s a pirate to do? Up Boys Up presents no such quandary, as it’s clearly a song of young pirate boys serving as ship lookouts. Strong and adventuresome, it’s another excellent addition to the album’s healthy offering of original pirate songs.

The Ladies all Loved Me is the CDs second song of braggadocio, but in this case it’s regarding each pirates physical, er, assets. Or prowess, depending on the nature of each’s gift. It’s a fun, witty, “clean” song featuring innuendo as dirty as it gets. Tap That Cask, however, features no innuendo (despite what you might expect from the title.) Simply an energized song of anticipation of drinking time, this would be one of the few sideline songs of the album – decent, but not really special enough to warrant any particular mention.

Isle of Brest is a marked change in musical style for the Jolly Rogers with its uniquely tropical sound. It’s also another song of innuendo (say Isle of Brest aloud a few times and you’ll guess it’s nature soon enough.) Pirate Boys also boasts a different sound from the rest of the album, as it lacks the guitar featured so effectively throughout the rest of the songs. It’s a decent piece, but the a’capella, combined with a slightly silly temperament, makes it sound a bit more “faireish” than the rest of the album. We Want, however, is a bold, powerful return to the true musical piratey that’s so prominently featured throughout Cannon, Cutlass, and Curves. Utilizing strong acoustic guitar and excellent lyrics about the expectations pirates demand life to deliver, it’s an excellent conclusion to the swashbuckler aspects of this CD. However, two more songs do remain – Wild Gypsy Girl and HMH2 (Horror Movie Hero 2). Both of these final songs are exceptional in their own rights, although they don’t feel like a natural part of this particular album – Wild Gypsy Girl being rather lovey-dovey and twirly for a band that doesn’t exactly seem at home with subjects such as “devotion” or “committment” regarding their love of the female species, and HMH2 a 50’s drive-in style song about kicking monsters butts and killing vampires – great, great fun, but an odd fit.

The final two songs aside, Cannon, Cutlass and Curves is a brilliant pirate album. At worst the songs are decent, and at best they’re outright glorious – and in a one-for-one count, the glorious handily trump the merely decent. A certain must-have for pirate music fans.

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