Have you heard enough of those typical Christmas songs that we’ve been spinning for 20 years now? Forget about WHAM!, Mariah Carey, Elvis, and so on, because here comes the Christmas soundtrack that you have always wanted to hear! Pirate folk act YE BANISHED PRIVATEERS recently released their festive record, “A Pirate Stole My Christmas,” on December 3rd, 2021, via Napalm Records.
“A Pirate Stole My Christmas” contains eleven re-imagined, grim covers of Christmas music, perfect for celebrating the holidays during a pandemic, where we don’t really get to spend our times the way we would traditionally do. The first track off the album is “Ring the Bells,” a re-imagined version of “Jingle Bells.” While “Jingle Bells” is originally written in A Major, this song was written in minor, making it a very melancholic cover song. The lyrics also got a re-interpretation, to make them more piratey. This makes for a dashing start to the record.
Starting slightly happier is the mesmerizing, folky “It Came to Bloody Pass,” which is basically what “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” should sound like. Instead of singing, the vocals are telling a story, which makes it easy to connect with the music and get immersed into the atmosphere of the music. The combination with well-known Christmas melodies in the track can sometimes be a bit odd, but still, as a whole, it definitely fits. The party continues with a tavern-like atmosphere in “Deck and Hull,” which is a representation of one of my all-time favorite Christmas tracks, “Deck the Halls.” Obviously, the group is not singing fa-la-la, but fa-la-la-la-yar-yar-yar, as a true pirate should! This is definitely the kind of song to raise a pint to.
We couldn’t imagine a Christmas album without “Twelve Days of Christmas,” which the band also changed the lyrics for, fitting to a pirate’s best needs: two salty rats, three scurvy dogs, four wooden legs, five yarrs of rum, six deckhands drinking, seven seas a-storming, eight dead men dancing, nine cat tails whipping, ten sails a-setting, eleven cannons cursing, twelves pirates brawling, and a gangplank for setting them free – you got to admit, genius these lyrics! The sea shanty-styled track is definitely one of the ultimate highlights.
The traditional Christmas carol, “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” dates back to the 1650s; the Golden Age of Piracy. Naturally, YE BANISHED PRIVATEER‘s version “Sulphur Ahoy” really fits, perhaps because of the zeitgeist of the original song. One of the funniest tracks off this record is perhaps “Little Rummer Boy,” yes you read it right… Rummer… Not drummer! That title by itself is already gold. The well-known classic “Oh Christmas Tree” gets a new coat of paint when YE BANISHED PRIVATEERS re-word it to “Oh Cannonball” – can you imagine decorating a cannonball and then shooting it off to the enemy? A sinking ship has never been this glorious.
By its title, you would think that “Festival Days” is an upbeat, happy, song that gets you in the right party mood. The track starts off within a courtroom, with a proclamation. While it’s not exactly a festival of a song, it’s a brief intermezzo, that immerses you right into the soundtrack. Continuing with “Drawn and Quartered,” a track that features a dancing, dangling pirate as he experiences a curious macabre Christmas marvel.
“Carol of the Bells” is one of those Christmas carols that is excellent while being transformed into a folk song, take for instance the folk version of CELTIC WOMAN, which is one of my all-time favorite interpretations of this track. I guess that’s why I was rather excited to dive into “Carol of Bellow,” ultimately, the lyrics are very witty and even a bit naughty. After Christmas festivities, it’s only normal that we are wasting away because of too much food and drinks, “Away in the Gutter” is thus an excellent ending to this adventure, ironically, it’s also sung in a way that feels like death and despair; a true pirate way to end this album!
The Swedish pirates of YE BANISHED PRIVATEERS have created an excellent album to spin during the holidays, ’tis the jolliest of seasons, Christmas time, and while many of these re-imagined tracks are familiar, they are interpreted in a way that is fresh and inspiring. We’re not often used to hearing Christmas carols so grim and melancholic, yet, YE BANISHED PRIVATEERS have redone the songs in a way that is both respectful towards the original and their pirate lifestyle! Best served with a bottle of rum.
Written by Laureline Tilkin
1. Ring the Bells
2. It Came to Bloody Pass
3. Deck and Hull
4. 12 Days of Christmas
5. Sulphur Ahoy
6. Little Rummer Boy
7. O Cannonball
8. Festival Days
9. Drawn and Quartered
10. Carol of Bellows
11. Away in the Gutter
Anders ”Nobility” Nyberg – cembalo, pump organ and miniature piano
Anton “Quinton Taljenblock” Teljebäck – viola pomposa, fiddle, mandoline, cable cutting crashes and main chopper of the sloppy beats
Björn ”Bellows” Malmros – squeeze box, hurdy gurdy and voices of madness
Eva ”the Navigator” Maaherra Lövheim – violin, nyckelharpa and vocals
Frida “Freebird af Wærmaland” Granström – violin, viola and vocals
Hampus “Monkey Boy” Holm – the big drum and other floggables
Louise “Happy Lou” Gillman – feisty fiddle
Ina ”Battery” Molin – cajon, marimba, pompous percussions and all things beatable
Jens ”Wan Chou Zhong” Tzan Choong – obnoxious stringdrum, wee guitar, huge oriental fruit thing with strings and Chinese harpy harpy – aka Banjo/Guitalele/Sitar/Guzheng
Jim ”Silent Jim” Sundström – mandolino, guitarra, irish tenor banjo, false chord-posing, wishful singing, wrong stage-whistle and mould infested clothing
Jonas “Hogeye McGinn” Nilsson – rusty old 5-string
Magda “Magda Malvina Märlprim” Andersson – blood stained lute guitar and cherry vocals
Martin “Scurvy Ben” Gavelin – cajon, percussions and vocals
Nick “Meat Stick Nick” Bohman-Ernhill – ukulele bass, double bass and bass trombone
Peter “Quartermaster Blackpowder Pyte” Mollwing – crude singing, sentimental lyrics, desecration of primary sources and debatable British accent
Richard ”Old Red” Larsson – them thick and them thin strings
Sara “Landmark” Lundmark – percussion and marching drum
Stina “Filthylocks” Hake –violoncell and fipple pipes
William ”Shameless Will” Hallin -vocals, vanity, profanity, coin snatching and coat turning
Hampus “Bojtikken” Larsson – tight noose vocals and scrap percussion