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 album (in CD or Vinyl), download it 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.

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

‘Moon And Tide’ – official video:

TREMBLING BELLS/GALLEY BEGGAR Live at 229, London

TREMBLING BELLS GALLEY BEGGAR Live at 229 London
Trembling Bells

Galley Beggar were about to premiere some of their new album, Silence & Tears, in front of a live audience and they were … not nervous but a little apprehensive about the reception the new material would receive. Of course, they had no need to worry.

They began with a couple of old favourites: ‘The Outlandish Knight’ and ‘Willow Tree’ before the most typical of the new material, ‘Geordie’ with a stunning solo from David Ellis. ‘Empty Sky’ followed ‘Adam And Eve’ then came ‘Pay My Body Home’, the song from the album that is destined for live greatness and which allowed David into guitar heaven. They closed with ‘Jack O’Rion’, a big ballad compressed into a few minutes’ story-telling – the perfect ending to the set.

Sadly, Celine Marshall was unavailable but her dep, Emma Scarr, did a solid job although possibly without the freedom of expression that Celine might have had. It was still a fine set and one that would have appealed equally to the dedicated fans as well as the merely curious.

TREMBLING BELLS GALLEY BEGGAR Live at 229 London
Galley Beggar Photograph by Ester Segarra

Trembling Bells also have a new album, The Sovereign Self, and a new guitarist, Alasdair C Mitchell, but it is still Mike Hastings, a giant of a man who produces a big sound from his Burns guitar who dominates the stage almost as much as Lavinia Blackwall. Actually, Mitchell is more than just a guitarist, sometimes taking over from Lavinia on keyboards and adding another voice.

They started with three songs without a word of introduction, just great waves of sound washing over us and their albums are a bit like that; you have to attune your head to them. The guy behind me remarked that it was like San Francisco in 1968. I’ll take his word for it because I know I wasn’t there but I think I know what he means. I suspect that it’s more the way we remember the sixties to have been than the way they really were.

‘O, Where Is Saint George’, which begins with a fragment of the Padstow May Day song, is perhaps typical of Alex Neilson’s unique imagination moving from a traditional lyric to what sounds like stream of consciousness or cut-up – “Lou Read and Lauren Bacall defeated Asterix the Gaul” and I admit that I looked that up afterwards. ‘Bells Of Burford’ feels like a traditional song written by Dennis Wheatley while melodically echoing ‘The Lyke Wake Dirge’ and was one of the highlights of the set.

There were more moments of weirdness with Alex’s solo turns at the microphone. One might have been called ‘My Girlfriend’s Got No Navel’ but I’m not sure I got that right. When they announced their final number it seemed like an awfully short set but they came back to finish with a spiky version of ‘The Auld Triangle’. Everyone went home very happy and a good many albums were bought – even by me.

Dai Jeffries

If you would like to order a copy 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 banner links below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website.

GALLEY BEGGAR – Silence and Tears (Rise Above Recordings RISECD189)

GalleyBeggar3I first encountered Galley Beggar at the Half-Moon, Putney, where they were playing support to Mike Heron and Trembling Bells. They were, quite simply, terrific; folk-rock played with gusto. At the time they were two albums to the good, but both albums, though very enjoyable, failed to capture the essence of Galley Beggar live. This, their third album, goes some way to redressing that.

Modern production values shy away from reverb going, instead, for a drier sound. A preference I have never understood. This album is mixed with reverb throughout, giving it a more live feel. The band seem to be playing more freely too, with a less studio-bound style.

The opener, ‘Adam and Eve’ is a good solid folk track and gives you a foretaste of what is to come. There are a couple of traditional folk songs, my favourite being ‘Geordie’, but the standout tracks for me are ‘Empty Sky’ and the wonderfully psychedelic ‘Pay My Body’.

Maria O’Donnell has a voice well suited for folk songs and she is backed by an accomplished group of musicians in Celine Marshall on violin, Bill Lynn on bass, Paul Dadswell, on drums and backing vocals and some stylish guitar-work by both David Ellis and Mat Fowler. Only eight tracks on the album, but every one a gem.

This album is closer in spirit to the Galley Beggar I saw, but still a gear or two lower than when the band are live. So, my advice is to buy this album and enjoy the sound of Galley Beggar, but if you ever get the opportunity to see band perform live – take it!

Ron D Bowes

If you would like to order a copy of the album (in CD or Vinyl), download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the banner link below 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.

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

It’s a couple of years ago but here’s a live version of ‘Jack Orion’ from Silence And Tears. Turn it up to eleven!

Dai Jeffries reviews GALLEY BEGGAR’s latest release…

There have been major line-up changes since Galley Beggar released their debut album, Reformation House, a couple of years ago. Gone are lead vocalist Frances Tye, violinist Prasanthi Matharu and pianist and bassist Paul Murphy.

The intent remains the same. There’s still an attachment to the classic folk-rock of the seventies but without Frances’ recorders there is less nu-folk and a harder edge thanks, in part, to Maria O’Donnell’s vocals. The material is split between traditional and original material although sometimes it’s hard to say which is which. ‘Daverne Lamb’ written by Paul Dadswell and David Ellis could easily be traditional both in delivery and content although the final two songs, ‘Hymn To Pan’ and ‘Birds & Fish’ hark back to their earlier style. The opener, ‘Willow Tree’, is in the Spriguns/Steeleye Span vein with ringing mandolin, fiddle, electric guitar and drums that say 1975 over and over again and ‘Nottamun Town’ has that wonderful drone effect that both Fairport and Pentangle used to achieve.

I’m heartened that Galley Beggar has an audience for what some would consider an old-fashioned take on the music. They are tight and dynamic and there isn’t a folk festival in the country that wouldn’t benefit from having them on the bill. Dai Jeffries

Artist web link: www.galleybeggar.com/wordpress

folkmaster – Here is a track from their first album as I can’t lay may hands on any material from the new album:

The new album is available form the web link above. If you’ve not got it and you fancy it, Reformation House is a available to download from the amazon link below.

If you would like to order a copy of the album (in CD or Vinyl), download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the banner link below 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.