Beggar’s Bridge are a six-piece band from Hull whose music is rooted in the characters and history of East Yorkshire. Most of their songs are written by Alan Catton (guitar and mandolin) and vocalist Mark Pollard. Their style is acoustic folk-rock: Martin Hainstock’s bass doesn’t pound or chug and there are no screaming electric guitar breaks; the decorative lines coming from Dave Watts’ violin and Sam Martyn’s whistle. Sam is also the second vocalist providing a counterpoint to Mark’s gruffer tones – particularly effective on ‘The Bonny Black Hare’, one of the two traditional songs included here.
Short Stories Tall Tales is the band’s second album, and Sam also has a solo CD: that and the band’s debut are both tempting purchases. The “heroes” of the songs include Hannah Hauxwell, who worked her farm in the remote North Riding until she became the subject of several television documentaries. Her story is told in ‘Daughter Of The Dales’. Then there is ‘Peg Fyfe’, reputedly a witch who flayed alive a stable boy who thwarted her plans to steal a horse. She was sent to the gallows but was killed before the noose could do its work. The album ends with the story of notorious burglar and murderer, ‘Charlie Peace’.
An episode from Hull’s maritime history is recounted in ‘The Gamecock Fleet’ when trawlers fishing the Dogger Bank were fired on by the Russian Baltic Fleet in 1904 while ‘The Devil’s Claw’ tells of the hard life of the men who worked the Grimsby boats. There’s nostalgia in ‘Had It All’, ‘Looking For Emily Street’ and the instrumental ‘By The Cleveland Way’ and a touch of politics in the opening track, ‘Don’t Forget’.
Beggar’s Bridge craft songs from stories in the way that John Conolly and Bill Meek did in their heyday and that is high praise indeed.
Artists’ website: http://www.beggars-bridge.co.uk/
‘Daughter Of The Dales’ with documentary film of Hannah Hauxwell: