GALLEY BEGGAR – Heathen Hymns (Rise Above Records RISECD208)

Heathen HymnsI have opined before that Galley Beggar’s albums, though excellent in themselves, never quite reflect the live feel of the band. The last album Silence And Tears went some way to redressing this imbalance, but their latest offering, Heathen Hymns, is much more in line with their live performances.

The opener ‘Salome’ is seasoned with eastern spice and is taste of the new direction that Galley Beggar is taking. A progressive rock feel with hints of early Pink Floyd in the mix. The mood and drive continues much in the same vein for ‘Four Birds’.

Back to their traditional folk roots for ‘The Girl I Left Behind Me’, though the latter stages of the track has power building as it soars ever skywards before returning to its folk foundation. The middle section of the album is firmly in folk-land. Good tracks all, my favourite being the violin driven ‘Moon And Tide’ and Maria O’Donnell’s pure voice is admirably suited to this style of music.

The penultimate track is my personal pick of the crop. A traditional folk tale given the Galley Beggar prog rock treatment.  Cascading guitar echoing into the stratosphere, inducing flashbacks of psychedelia to this enthralled listener.

The album ends with ‘My Return’ which, in places, has a very similar feel to ‘Salome’. Tasty violin on the bridge of this track and, once again, there is that underpinning of power lurking beneath.

Overall an excellent addition to Galley Beggar’s discography and one I can heartily recommend. If this is your first taste of Galley Beggar, it should leave you wanting more.

Ron D Bowes

If you would like to order a copy of the one of the albums (in CD or Vinyl), download them or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the GALLEY BEGGAR – Heathen Hymns link to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

ORDER – [CD]

ORDER – [VINYL]

Artists’ website: http://www.galleybeggar.com/wordpress/

‘Moon And Tide’ – official video:

ALAN REID & RACHEL CONLAN – A Quare Yield (own label)

A Quare YieldA Quare Yield is an album of mostly banjo and fiddle duets. I say mostly because Alan Reid also plays bouzouki and mandolin and, on one track, oud while Rachel Conlan occasionally swaps her fiddle for the Hardanger model and Marty Barry adds guitar. The tunes are mostly Irish but, musicians being the magpies that they are, Alan and Rachel also reach out to Scotland, Sweden and Cape Breton.

There is a gentleness and warmth about the playing that is refreshing. Alan and Rachel don’t really go in for finger-breaking feats of speed and you get the feeling that if you heard these tunes played like this a session you’d be itching to pick up an instrument and join in. Given the social nature of much traditional music I’d venture to suggest that this treatment is pretty authentic.

In one or two places there are “odd” notes which I’m sure are both intentional and authentic but serve to attract your attention if you are drifting away into a perfectly understandable reverie.  The first comes in the opening tune, ‘The Yellow Horse’, originally a song air here decorated with banjo triplets that seem at odds with the fiddle melody. It took two or three plays to figure out what Alan was doing and he carries the triplets over into the second part of the opening set, ‘Sorry I Am For What I Have Done’. The second wha? moment comes in ‘Glengarry Foxhunter’ and the third as they switch between ‘Pride Of Kildare’ and ‘Paddy Fahey’s #23’ – perfectly placed roughly halfway through the album.

The second set is ‘The Craoibhín’s Salute/The ‘98’ a pair of marches with Alan on mandolin keeping the tempo up and the sound bright. The oud and Hardanger combination come together in Joe Liddy’s tune ‘Manorhamilton The Eighth Of May’ which, despite the exotic instruments, sounds undeniably Irish. Reels, slip-jigs, polkas, hornpipes and hop-jigs all find a home on an album that I’m growing very fond of.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ website: https://www.facebook.com/alanreidandrachelconlan/

SKIPINNISH – The Seventh Wave (Skippinish Records SKIPCD26)

The Seventh WaveThe Seventh Wave is the seventh album to be released by Skipinnish and it is possibly one of the most enjoyable albums that I have recently been given the opportunity to review. When I agreed to take on the suicidal responsibility of reviewing new releases I was, unbelievably, excited about it. However, I have been disappointed with many of the albums I have been given, but not so this one. I am not sure if Skipinnish have been taking notes from my reviews but they seem to have “taken some of my advice”.

My Concern No 1 – If you only have 9 tracks to record then you are not ready to release an album Skipinnish – No problem. The Seventh Wave has 14 tracks. My Concern No 2 – Vocals are pushed back and over-powered by aggressive instrumentalisation. Skipinnish – No problem. They include twelve vocal tracks and the voice is always at the front supported by excellent musicianship.

My Concern No 3 – Lack of clarity in the vocals. Skipinnish – No problem. You can easily make out every word of every song. Superb clarity. My Concern No 4 – Groups issuing all of their vocal tracks entirely in Gaelic, a language few of their fans can understand. Skipinnish – No problem. The majority of their vocals are in English with the inclusion of their native Gaelic in acceptable levels.

My Concern No 5 – “Traditional” bands thinking that they are rock bands. Skipinnish – No problem. They are undoubtedly targeting an audience beyond the folk audience but with a professional awareness of the roots they came from. My Concern No 6 – Poor quality sleeves with not enough information about the album. Skipinnish – They provide a booklet with all the words of songs.

I will not go through the album track by track because that is the responsibility of the listener. I will tell you that most of them are simply excellent with two or three excelling even themselves. Skipinnish have included several “choral” backings to tracks and they are beautiful, especially on ‘The Iolaire’ and ‘Walking On The Waves’.

No album will be reviewed by me without some criticism and on this album, it relates to tracks 2, 7 and 13. I cannot stand the sound created by the introduction of “screeching” bagpipes played at an excessive speed supported by simplistic, heavy rock drummers. It is great fun for young, festival fans when played live. It gives them a chance to dance. Personally, I would not have included track 2, ‘The Hag’, as it is difficult to identify Skipinnish from any other folk band using the same instruments. Keep it in for live gigs but it is not great on an album. Strangely, on the final track the pipes are very much part of the effect but played sensitively and beautifully.

I am sure everybody who buys this album will love it and it is easy to fast forward track 2. It is unlikely you will fast forward any of the other tracks, maybe track 13. It is a great CD, so nip out and buy it.

Fraser Bruce

If you would like to order a copy of the one of the albums (in CD or Vinyl), download them or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the SKIPINNISH – The Seventh Wave link to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

ORDER – [CD]

Artists’ website: www.skipinnish.com

‘The Island’ – official video:

AMY McALLISTER – String On String (own label)

StringI’ll state now that anyone who sings ‘Matt Hyland’ is all right with me, especially when that anyone sings it as gorgeously as Amy McAllister does, even though she does omit the bribery verse. Amy is a singer, songwriter, harpist and fiddle player from Antrim and, after many years of touring, String On String is her debut album.

Amy has written three of the songs here, two tunes are borrowed and the rest are traditional, arranged by Amy and producer/instrumentalist Camille Champarnaud who plays just about everything except harp. Other guests are guitarist Eoghan Scott and Jos Kelly who plays piano on ‘Bonny Blue Eyed Nancy’. Everything is taken at a lively pace with the opener, ‘Over The Mountain’ being followed by a sprightly set of jigs

The first of her original songs, ‘Holy Holy’, is an intriguing blend of traditional sounds and modern lyrics – a line like “Plankton light up the Cartagena sea” doesn’t appear often in Irish songs. ‘It’s Been A Year’ is something of a sequel as the man who left her hasn’t yet come back to her and, in fact, is off with someone else while ‘Mi Amor’ describes or imagines his return.

The borrowed tunes are Catriona McKay’s ‘The Swan LK 243’ and ‘O’Carolan’s Concerto’ which every harpist worth his or her salt must play at some time. It’s a superb tune – the sort you would happily have on a loop – and Amy does it full justice

There is a dreamy feel to String On String which I find pleasantly relaxing. Usually my taste runs to something with more of an edge but I’m really taken with Amy and her debut album.

Dai Jeffries

If you would like to order a copy of the one of the albums (in CD or Vinyl), download them or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the AMY McALLISTER – String On String link to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

DOWNLOAD – [CD]

Artist’s website: http://www.amymcallister.co.uk/

‘Mi Amor’ – official video:

BRINDLEY HUNT – Find My Way… (own label)

Find My WayStaffordshire based singer/songwriters Barry Hunt and Bryan Brindley have formed a duo – namely Brindley-Hunt – and the result of this collaboration has led them to create a fabulous album, entitled Find My Way… Well known for their solo work individually, they have embarked on a little team work, and wowing audiences wherever they go!

All twelve tracks are originals and penned by themselves, and what a treat this album is! The lyrics of these tracks are about life and it’s up and downs, lost love, mostly gut wrenching and fabulously crafted. Full of superb harmonies, acoustic and electric guitar, drums, mouth organ, it has it all. Very easy to listen to and has not been off my car player since I received it!

‘Peace that Makes Me Whole’ kicks off the album with an up-tempo and full band sound. My feet are tapping already, and carries on with the next track of ‘I’ve Left it Too Long. Find My Way…’ another up-tempo number and the title track paints a picture of mountains, rivers and a hard road to travel (in life). Change of tempo comes next with the rather bluesy ‘Never Stop Holding On’ – very nice.

‘She Walked Away’ is very “Claptonesque” and reminded me of the classic Clapton track ‘Wonderful Tonight’ which always makes my heart string melt, (Barry has a comedy version of ‘Wonderful Tonight’ in a Brummy accent and is hilarious) and the Brindley-Hunt track is superb too!! I was awoken from my ‘dream’ with the rock and roll beat of ‘You Light Fires’. Up-tempo prominent guitar and voices with a rough edge!! Back to a bluesy feel with ‘All I Said I Want to Be’. Another Clapton type feel to it. Lovely. ‘Boy To A Man’ is of young boy’s thoughts in adolescence and thinking of his journey into manhood. ‘Closer To You’ is very much a love song. Two people in love and how uplifting it is.

‘Baby Blue Eyes’, although I love all of this album, is my favourite track. Very singalong, lovely melodies and harmonies. Fabulous guitar work. ‘She Could Be The One’ holds fabulous harmonies, drums and the title speaks for itself! Lastly but by no means least ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice’, no, not the Beach Boys track, gives a band sound, and great number to finish the album, leaving me wanting more.

This album is a must for everyone’s album collection due to the skill, craftsmanship, dedication and hard work it has had put into it, as well as it sounding great!

Can’t wait to see Brindley-Hunt live and wish them well. They deserve every ounce of success! Find My Way… is released on May 20th and you can purchase the album from the Brindley-Hunt website where you can also find where they are appearing in their tour diary.

Jean Camp

Artists’ website: www.brindley-hunt.co.uk

Brindley-Hunt’s live showreel:

CHIP TAYLOR – A Song I Can Live With (Trainwreck TW057)

A Song I Can Live WithHis fifth album in as many years, and his twenty-first studio recording in total, A Song I Can Live With falls firmly into what Taylor calls his stream-of-consciousness based songwriting, more spoken rather than sung and with rarely more than an acoustic guitar and Goran Grini’s keyboards for backing. I’ve seen him live a couple of times, and the album pretty much reflects what he does on stage, a mix of musings and anecdotes about things he’s done and people he’s known, some slipping into a guitar led melody. This is one of his more personal outings and, as you’d expect from someone’s who’s 77, veined with reflection on times and people past.

He talks about the lyrically sparse opening number, ‘Crazy Girl’, piano joining the guitar, as inspired by the many women he’s sung with over the years, its warmth further mellowed with a horn layering. The temptation of the character in the moody ‘Senorita Falling Down’ may be one of them, but of the many women who’ve been part of his life, his wife (that’s her with him on the cover, from a 1975 photo) is clearly among the most important and she gets her own tribute here with ‘Joan Joan Joan’, a note to tell her to stop worrying about things so much and let him smooth out the problems. You’ll be surprised how a song that talks about eating fish soup and Spanish mackerel can sound so romantic.

She’s there too in the inspiration behind the album closer, ‘Whisper Amen’, a gentle piano-backed benediction for those in need of blessing born from how, with time on her hands after her jewelry store went busy, Joan and some of her friends help youngsters with, among the things, reading problems. That theme of giving back can also be found on ‘Little Angel Wings’, a spoken account about the coach at a local rec center working with seven and eight year-olds as he teaches them as much about life a she does basketball, the track featuring three of Taylor’s grandchildren on flute and backing vocals and his long time guitarist John Plantania on Dobro.

The same New York rec centre, where he works out, is the anchor to ‘Until It Hurts’, a conversational song that references the passing of Bowie, who, he recalls, once lived a few blocks from Taylor’s local bar, and Lou Reed, the latter in reference to how fellow songwriter Eric Andersen told him how Reed had complimented Taylor on ‘Your Name Is On My Lips Again’, a song he’d written for Carrie Rodriguez. Listening to it feels like you’re in that bar sitting opposite Taylor as he tells you the story over a beer or two.

One of the more ‘sung’ tracks, ‘Hey Lou’ may also refer to Reed, but could also be just one of the many different folk Taylor’s met along the way whom he namechecks here, Joan, granddaughter Sammy, American football player John Maguire among them, for the generosity of spirit they have shown and the strength to carry the weight.

Accompanied by delicate piano, the Big Apple’s also the backdrop to ‘New York In Between’, a reflection on those with whom he’d have liked to spent more time, but how he, like many, has a hard time in staying in one place for long. The sentiment carries over into ‘Young Brooks Flow Forever’, except here the focus is on one person, a photograph of a young girl from many years (or ‘tears’ as Taylor puts it) gone by prompting memories of youth and thoughts of mortality.

Another very specific figure inspires the near six-minute ‘Los Alamitos Story’, John Cooper being a horse trainer at the titular southern California racetrack and, with a spoken intro as he recalls watching a horse racing channel, a song about life’s victories and how we deal with them.

Another example of the way life inspires his songs, the almost jaunty ‘Save Your Blues’ and ‘Your Money’ was inspired his daughter’s account of a holiday in Antigua and the upbeat nature of the natives despite their poor economic conditions, their celebration of life served as a contrast to the financial-obsessed attitudes in America.

And so to the title track, one of the last numbers written and, evocative perhaps of Kristofferson, a plaintive songwriter’s hymn as, backed by Grini on pump organ and Greg Leuiz on pedal steel, he throatily sings “Lord I’m asking you a favor.. before I go to bed as I pick up this old guitar.. and let feelings dance in my head let me write a song I can live with… forever amen.” The Lord has been answering Taylor’s prayers for decades.

Mike Davies

If you would like to order a copy of the one of the albums (in CD or Vinyl), download them or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the CHIP TAYLOR – A Song I Can Live With link to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

ORDER – [CD]

Artist’s website: www.trainwreckrecords.com

‘Senorita Falling Down’ – official video: