Old Monk And The Deep Sea
When Tom Waits and Keith Richards sing the old ballad Shenandoah for you, the only libation that I can think of as an accompaniment is Old Monk Rum. Waits, 63, and Richards, 69, have probably two of the most gravelly voices (and looks to match) in the business and their rendition of Shenandoah, a song whose exact provenance I tried to find out and wasn’t completely successful, is an indication of the shape of things to come in the form of a new album called Son of Rogue’s Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs and Chanteys.
That album, produced by Hal Wilner, a producer known for his tribute albums, will come out in a month or so but the single by Waits and Richards is available for streaming on the web. Keep some Old Monk handy before you click on the link. I read tantalising bits about the forthcoming album. That it will feature, among others, Johnny Depp (I believe he’s a co-producer too), a duet by Michael Stipe and Courtney Love, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith and Nick Cave.
But the Son of Rogue’s Gallery album will be a sequel of one that the same producers released in 2006, Rogue’s Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs, & Chanteys. It was during the shooting of one of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies that Depp (who played the protagonist Jack Sparrow, roughly modelled on Keith Richards who, incidentally, had cameo roles in the Pirates movies) proposed a re-imagining of old ballads, pirate songs and sea shanties.
As soon as I read about that 2006 album, I forked out R170 for the 2-disc album on iTunes. It has 43 songs, all of them old sea shanties, ballads and such, revived and rendered by contemporary singers.
There’s Nick Cave, Loudon Wainwright, Bryan Ferry, Sting, Bono, Jarvis Cocker and so many others. Cave does an absolutely NSFW and definitely not family listening fare version of Fire Down Below. Lou Reed has a nice protopunk adaptation of Leave Her Johnny but my favourite is the surprise track on the album. It’s by Ralph Steadman, the British cartoonist best known for his work with gonzo journo Hunter S. Thompson. I didn’t know Steadman, 76, could sing. He does and what a lovely song it is. It is called Little Boy Billy, a delightful little song about three Bristol men—Gorging Jack, Guzzling Jimmy and Little Boy Billy—who stole a ship and went to sea. When they ran out of food, Jack and Jimmy wanted to eat Billy. Yes, bizarre, but that act never happened because the ship was apprehended by the Royal Navy and the song ends with how Jack and Jimmy were hanged and Billy was made an admiral!
Not all of the 43 tracks will appeal to every listener but there’s a lot to choose from and it’s a concept album that’s quite a tribute to the entire genre of forgotten sea songs and old ballads, most of them rendered in versions that have a modern tweak. And yes, Old Monk goes well with that album as well.
The other thing doing duty on my playlist is a band called Foxygen. They’re a young duo from California with one full-length out (Take the Kids Off Broadway) and one (We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic) on the way. Foxygen, refreshingly, doesn’t shy away from making songs that are more than three minutes long, venturing into double digits as well, but the striking thing about them is how this young band has assimilated the influences of rock’s best decades and created their own style and sound. You can hear the best years of The Rolling Stones and the best of the Kinks in Foxygen’s songs.
The Shins’ Richard Swift is producing their new album and maybe it has something to do with the fact that their first album has a track that they dedicate to Swift. On Take The Kids Off Broadway, the title song is a 10-minute example of how Foxygen are able to use the influences of rock’s heady era during the sixties and seventies and yet not sound derivative. Foxygen are a great find. And, no, Old Monk isn’t going to be a good accompaniment for their brand of music.
I’d got out of touch with The Disco Biscuits, a trance fusion, live electronica jam band. Last week I discovered their Times Square shows in New York in last week of December 2012. Downloadable (for a price!), The Disco Biscuits are a good trip to lose oneself in once in a while.